The fight against mental disorders in the country has received a major boost after the Nakuru Governor, Lee Kinyanjui announced that a Sh.40 million centre of excellence for mental health care is set to be unveiled at the Gilgil Hospital.
The facility, touted as the first of its kind by a county government in Kenya will conduct screening and diagnosis for mental illness and will offer psychiatry and counseling services to patients.
This modern facility will also offer teaching and training facilities to psychiatry students from government’s medical training centres, public universities as well as private hospitals and universities.
“It will be the second fully-fledged psychiatric and mental health care facility in the country after Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital. We will do away with admission of mental health patients at Nakuru Level Five Hospital once the centre of excellence for mental health patients is launched in Gilgil Hospital in less than six months,” said Kinyanjui.
Kenyans within the Rift Valley counties of Nakuru, Bomet, Kericho, Samburu, Baringo, Nyandarua, and Laikipia will access special rates for mental health treatment and psychiatric services while the rest of Kenyans will pay a subsidized price-the cheapest in the country.
The governor put the cost of treating mental illness at between Sh.50,000 to Sh.100,000 before factoring in on the doctors consultation fee of Sh10,000.
The Mathari Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya’s known public mental health facility requires a down payment of Sh.10,000 before admission, but one can get express admission if he/she has the NHIF card.
“The cost of accessing treatment in private hospitals is very high owing to the fact that a between Sh.3,000 to Sh.5,000 has to be paid per day every time a psychiatrist attends to a patient.
We need to bring the cost down so that many people get the proper treatment. Kenyans who cannot afford to seek treatment, continue to suffer from the effects of mental illness. My administration is committed to ensuring that proper mental health care is not a preserve for the rich in society,” stated the county boss.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14, but most cases go undetected and untreated.
In December last year, the Cabinet approved a proposal to upgrade Gilgil Hospital to be a satellite of Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital.
The move by the Cabinet paved way for the hospital to secure grants from the national Treasury towards financing its operations and future expansion projects.
The mental section at Gilgil Hospital has been operating since 1965 and caters for 87 male and female patients. Some of the patients have been abandoned by their families and were transferred to the facility from Mathari.
The County is also setting up at the facility a modern fully fledged and operational theatre.
“For the next three years we will be making budgetary allocations towards revamping the mental health facility. Due to high numbers of accident casualties on the Nakuru-Naivasha Highway we are also setting up a fully operational theatre at the hospital.
We have already dispatched an anesthetic who will work with a surgeon who was posted there recently,” said Kinyanjui.
The County Executive Committee Member for Health, Dr. Zachary Kariuki Gichuki said under the new programme, the National government will hire staff and supply equipment at the Gilgil Mental Health Facility. Current staff, he said, will be redeployed to other health facilities within the county.
“It is very expensive to treat mental disorders due to the high cost of drugs. We will be shutting down the Nakuru Level Five Hospital’s mental health unit which is supposed to accommodate 21 patients but has more than 70 patients.
Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital, which is commonly known public facility, is overwhelmed by low income patients; there is a need for more public facilities to counter the private ones frequented by the middle income earners. Both the National and County governments need to allocate more funds in building public mental hospitals,” said Dr Gichuki.
The Health CEC said that the county has posted a consultant psychiatrist and a nurse at the Gilgil Hospital to deal with the increasing mental health cases in the region.
He revealed that the Centre for Excellence will have a rehabilitation unit for victims of drug abuse and related mental illnesses.
The number of mental disorder cases has risen exponentially in Kenya with official data indicating that approximately 20-25 percent of outpatients seeking primary healthcare present symptoms of mental illness at any one time.
When the Ministry of Health launched the Kenya Mental Health Policy 2015-2030, it stated that one in every four Kenyans will suffer from a mental disorder in their lifetime.
While unveiling the Quality Rights initiative which seeks to improve access to quality mental health services and promote the rights of people with mental health conditions Principal Secretary for Health Susan Mochache expressed concern that Kenya was witnessing an unprecedented rate of suicide deaths and increasing burden due to mental disorders even among children and adolescents.
By Anne Mwale