Acute mental health care according to recent mental health legislation. Part III. Structuring space for acute mental health care

  • A Janse van Rensburg
  • ABR Janse van Rensburg
Keywords: Architecture, Hospitals, Mental health services, Human rights


Objective: This is the third of three reports on the follow-up review of mental health care at Helen Joseph Hospital (HJH). The study reviewed existing South African standards for mental health care facilities. Architectural principles and implications for the use of space were deducted from recent legislation. Objectives were to evaluate the use of space in the existing physical facilities, to identify appropriate architectural solutions considering identified human rights requirements and to provide provisional cost estimates to align the unit towards its designated functions. Method: Personal interviews were conducted. An on-site assessment and survey was made of existing and potential new spaces. Results: Spatial requirements for implementing the Mental Health Act, No. 17 of 2002 (MHCA) were explored. Principles for spatial design of acute facilities include that: - spaces should communicate clear individual identity; - space should be segregated into zones according to user functionality and privacy; - communal leisure spaces should open into safe contained outdoor spaces; - circulation routes should preferably be circular; - sufficient visual connection should exist between circulation space and group activities; and - open lines of sight should be provided to all access points. The potential options for extension included: - an extensive unused single storey structural shell for a potential office wing on the same floor; - a huge vacant double volume space which could be accessed across the existing flat roof for potential occupational therapy activities; and - the existing roof area could be altered and secured to become an adequate outside leisure and garden area. A proposed concept design in two phases – based on these principles - was submitted to hospital and provincial management. Conclusion: To implement the MHCA without violating the human rights of mental health care users at HJH will require specific adjustment and extension of the current use of space at HJH.

Key words: Architecture; Hospitals; Mental health services; Human rights


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1994-8220