Psychiatric patients unable to get treatment

Updated: 2010-07-13 13:16
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More than half of people with mental health needs who should be hospitalized cannot be accommodated because of a lack of space in Beijing's psychiatric hospitals.

"About one in every two patients I accept cannot be offered a bed because the wards are already 90 percent full," said Nan Zhengguo, a psychiatric expert at Beijing's Huilongguan Hospital, a third-level first-class psychiatric hospital.

Nan said there are about 10,000 patients with severe mental illness in Beijing who are unable to get help because most hospitals are full.

A spokeswoman at Peking University Sixth Hospital and one with Beijing An Ding Hospital, two other third-level psychiatric hospitals in the capital also said they were overloaded.

The experts said the problem was down to the fact that many psychiatric patients are staying in hospital after they have received treatment because of loopholes in the medical system.

Those people are hanging on to beds that ought to be directed toward people in more urgent need.

"Patients with mental problems from all districts and counties in Beijing can be easily transferred to the third-level psychiatric hospitals through the 'green channel' from regular hospitals but, when their acute outbreak is over, they are not automatically sent back to their local mental health centers or back to second-level hospitals that can assist in their rehabilitation," Nan said.

Additionally, some patients have been living in hospitals for years because they simply have nowhere else to go, he said, given the fact that not all of them can get accepted into rehabilitation centers.

"Some families refuse to take patients back because they worry they will not be able to get the professional care they need at home, others claim homecare is not affordable. As a result, the existence of these patients is preventing us from hospitalizing others," Nan said.

However, he said the patients hanging on to beds in psychiatric wards are not benefiting from their long stays and would be better off going to rehabilitation centers where they can learn skills that prepare them to return to normal life.

Yin Li, vice minister of Public Health, said the government is putting the issue of the overburdened mental health care system high on the agenda.

Yin said 550 psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric departments within general hospitals will be enhanced and expanded in the coming two years, Xinhua News Agency reported on June 19.

"It is really good news for both doctors and patients," Nan said.

"Building more rehabilitation centers is essential because they will help institutionalized patients return to their homes and ease the stress on hospitals."


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Psychiatric patients unable to get treatment

Psychiatric patients unable to get treatment

Todd Balazovic is a reporter for the Metro Section of China Daily. Born in Mineapolis Minnesota in the US, he graduated from Central Michigan University and has worked for the China daily for one year.