Staff/bed and staff/patient ratios in South African public sector mental health services

  • Crick Lund
  • Alan J Fisher


Objectives. To document staff/bed and staff/patient ratios in public. sector mental health services in South Africa.

Design. Cross-sectional survey.

Method. Aquestionnaire was distributed to provincial mental health co-ordinators requesting numbers of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff who provide mental health care at all service levels; numbers of psychiatric beds; and numbers of patients who attend outpatient departments, clinics and community health centres. The information was supplemented by consultations with mental health coordinators in each of the nine provinces.

Results. The staff/bed ratio for the country as a whole was 0.3 staff per bed. For the provinces, the staff/bed ratios were as follows: Eastern Cape 0.30, Free State 0.50, Gauteng 0.22, KwaZulu-Natal 0.34, Mpumalanga 0.89, North-West 0.27, Northern Cape 0.26, Northern Province 0.26, and Western Cape 0.59. For the country as a whole, the staff/bed ratios for each category of staff were as follows: total nursing staff 0.25, occupational therapists 0.01, occupational therapy assistants 0.01, social workers 0.01, community health workers 0.00, psychologists 0.00, intern psychologists 0.00, psychiatrists 0.00, psychiatric registrars O.Dl, and medical officers 0.00. The ratio of ambulatory psychiatric service staff to daily patient visits (DPV) for the country as a whole was 0.6.

Conclusions. Staff/bed ratios in South African mental health care are low relative to developed countries. Staff/DPV ratios highlight both the need to develop ambulatory care personnel for mental health care, and problems associated with monitoring the delivery and utilisation of mental health services within an integrated health system at primary level.


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135