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Acute mental health care and South African mental health legislation Part 1- morbidity, treatment and outcome

ABR Janse van Rensburg


Objective: This is the first of three reports on a follow-up review of mental health care at Helen Joseph Hospital (HJH). In this first part, qualitative and quantitative descriptions were made of the services and of demographic and clinical data on acute mental health care users managed at HJH, in a retrospective review of clinical records over a four year period. Objectives for this review were to provide information on mental health care outcome, to do a cost analysis and to establish a quality assurance cycle that may facilitate a cost centre management approach. The operational areas identified were service delivery, teaching, and research. Activities within each area were in-patient care, out-patients and consultation/liaison, under- and postgraduate teaching and self initiated or contract research. Method: The study reviewed the existing mental health care program and activities in context of relevant policy and legislation. Results: Norms from a World Health Organization model for acute mental health care showed that significant staff shortages existed, especially for nursing. A total of 520 users were admitted for in-patient mental health care during the financial year 2007/08. The average length of stay was 15.4 days and ranged from 1 to 85 days. Ninety users (17%) had an extended period of stay of 25 days and more, while 39 users had multiple admissions during the 12 month period. The most common Axis I diagnoses made were schizophrenia n=138 (29%), substance-related conditions n=99 (21%) and bipolar mood disorder n=69 (14%). After discharge, 139 users (27%) were referred back to the HJH out-patient department for follow-up. Conclusion: The information from these reports may be used in the allocation of adequate resources to align this acute unit with its responsibilities according to recent legislation.

Key words: Mental health service; Legislation; South Africa

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eISSN: 1994-8220