The Malta Independent 19 June 2021, Saturday

PN unveils proposals dealing with mental health sector

Wednesday, 9 June 2021, 15:42 Last update: about 9 days ago

The Nationalist Party today announced a number of proposals dealing with the mental health sector to help patients, families and all professionals working in the field.

During a press conference on Wednesday, PN MP Stephen Spiteri said that this is a much-desired and well-deserved reform. It follows a number of meetings with stakeholders during which they presented a number of shortcomings that exist and want to see this sector move forward.

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Spiteri said that mental health is an issue which needs to be taken more seriously. “We need to ensure that this sector is protected as there is a lack of investment in human resources.”

Spiteri and candidates Julie Zahra and Paula Mifsud Bonnici each outlined a number of proposals which the PN believe will take the mental health sector in Malta forward.

Community psychiatry with more service centres and training for family doctors

Mifsud Bonnici explained that the PN aims to expand the psychiatric service in the community through more assigned specialists and more mental health service centres, especially in existing health centres.

At the same time, “we will offer mental health training programs to GPs and allocate funds for screening in order to relieve pressure on the National system as well as reduce waiting lists,” Mifsud Bonnici said.

Emergency Psychiatry Team and Mental Health Emergency Observation Unit for immediate care

The PN is proposing the setting up of an Emergency Psychiatry Team in the Mater Dei emergency department which will be made up of various mental health professionals including psychiatric doctors, mental health nurses, social workers, psychologists, among others.

Mifsud Bonnici explained that this will operate 24/7, will offer first aid and will guide patients at all times, thus this service needs to be accompanied by an awareness campaign.

A Mental Health Emergency Observation Unit has also been introduced in order to make the difference between life and death. This comprehensive strategy will lead to faster and more immediate treatment while preventing early cessation of treatment.

The plan regarding this Mental Health Unit is for it to be set up in the new mental health hospital that the PN plans on opening as the party believes that Mount Carmel Hospital should be closed down, Mifsud Bonnici said.

Day Centres for the disabled and sheltered housing with support of professionals

Another proposal which Mifsud Bonnici highlighted is that related to open day centres that reach all catchment areas and accomodate people who are unable to work by providing them with support and new skills.

“With this we are also introducing a sheltered housing system that allows people with mental health challenges to live in the community while having a secure system of support from professionals,” Mifsud Bonnici said.

‘Stop the bad practice of admitting victims of dangerous addication to mental hospital’

Meanwhile, the PN believes that substance abuse should no longer be treated as a mental illness. Therefore, the party aims to eliminate the bad practice of admitting victims of dangerous addications to the mental hospital but instead develop specialisation in the field.

This will be done by working together with centres of excellence already operating in this field to provide decent and focused care to victims and their families.

Strengthen the Commissioner for Mental Health and create active consultation

Creating a system of active consultation with service users and NGOs on projects in this field in order to acquire advice from patients and their families, is another proposal that the PN put forth as part of their mental health reform.

Zahra said that “we will also strengthen the role of the Commissioner of Mental Health by increasing resources and offering access to lawyers who will be able to offer their services to patients without charging them.”

Educational campaign to overcome social stigma

In addition, Zahra remarked that the PN aims to launch an educational campaign on mental health and related services to create positive awareness and overcome social stigma once and for all, including in everyday speech.

“Mental health must be an integral part and on an equal footing with physical health.”

Develop a formulary that caters to specific mental illness needs, discard generic medicines

Another proposal that the party put forward is that of discarding the method of purchasing the cheapest generic medicines and instead, invest in a formulary that caters to the specific needs of mental illness.

Such a method increases the effectiveness of the treatment and stregthens the relationship between the patient and the professional.

Spiteri explained that “nowadays patients with mental ilness cannot access new drugs without paying for them themselves. In addition, the increase in doses of outdated medicines is having dangerous side effects.”

Specialised hospital integrated at Mater Dei

He added that the PN also aims to open up a specialist hospital integrated in Materi Dei that offers the best free care.

“We believe that when it comes to mental health care, the environment and safety of the place are crucial to enable patients to recover fully and quickly. This modern vision contrasts sharply with the decisions of the Labour government, which is spending tens of millions of public funds on repair works in Mount Carmel Hospital,” Spiteri said.

He added that this does not give the correct results in mental health services and care. Meanwhile, a dedicated site within Mater Dei hospital will be set up to combat stigma.

Close Mount Carmel and tranform the site into a space open for the public

Lastly, to further strengthen the importance of public spaces for better mental health, the PN aims to transform the lands and historic property of Mount Carmel into publicly accessible public places with an emphasis on open spaces, historical heritage, sport, culture and art.

 

 

 

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