Ingutsheni overwhelmed by abandoned patients

Ingutsheni hospital chief executive Nemache Mawere said several patients were neglected and  without basic supplies from their families and had no visitors.

AUTHORITIES at Zimbabwe’s largest psychiatric hospital, Ingutsheni in Bulawayo, have accused families of dumping their loved ones who are suffering from mental health issues at the facility, resulting in overcrowding.

Ingutsheni hospital chief executive Nemache Mawere said several patients were neglected and  without basic supplies from their families and had no visitors.

Mawere told Southern Eye on Sunday that the mental health hospital was seriously overcrowded with some patients who may have recovered still admitted after being dumped by family members.

“The challenge is inevitable because it's not from the institution itself, but it is coming from the community,” Mawere said.

“Close relatives of the inmates dump them at the site and we are forced to keep them in the institution when they get neglected like this.

“We cannot release them unless, and until they come for them.”

He said one of the overcrowded wards has 160 patients against its holding capacity of 76.

“The ward is currently overcrowded with 84 patients who are supposed to have been released but because they were abandoned by relatives, there is nothing we can do to ease the pressure at the ward,” Mawere said.

“Otherwise the hospital is operating at a normal rate, but the challenge is overcrowding.”

Mawere pleaded with families and relatives to check on their loved ones at the institution to ensure that they get discharged to ease the accommodation crisis.

According to available statistics, at least 50% of new admissions at Ingutsheni are drug abusers.

Statistics compiled in 2021 by the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drugs Network revealed that 60% of psychiatric admissions countywide are due to drug abuse. 

Last year, 17 youths from Entumbane were rushed to Ingutsheni Central Hospital after abusing crystal methamphetamine (meth).

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for stiffer penalties against cartels behind the trade in illegal drugs and other illegal substances.

Mawere said they were pressed to admit more patients than the hospital’s carrying capacity, highlighting the mental health crisis the country is facing.

Mawere said the majority of mental health patients at Ingutsheni are men and the patient population is dynamic, with fluctuations occurring daily.

He said the hospital was accommodating approximately 650 patients, more than the available beds, stretching its budget and resources while posing a threat towards providing adequate care and treatment to all patients.

Mawere said Ingutsheni actively engages in follow-ups with families to ensure that patients receive the support they need for their mental health journey.

He also said more needs to be done to support health institutions like Ingutsheni.

In 2021, the government said it was in the process of upgrading existing mental health institutions so they can admit drug abuse patients as part of efforts to tackle drug and illegal substance abuse.

The plans have, however, remained on paper.

There are six public institutions with psychiatric beds: Harare Hospital Psychiatric Unit, Parirenyatwa Hospital Annexe, Ingutsheni Hospital, Mpilo Hospital Psychiatric Unit, Ngomahuru Hospital and Mutare Hospital Sakubva Unit.

In addition, three facilities provide forensic psychiatry services: Mlondolozi Special Institution, Harare Central Prison and Chikurubi Special Institution.

Related Topics