SOME 500 of the 822 patients at the St Ann's Hospital are not supposed to be at the mental institution, Health Minister Dr Fuad Khan has said.
"Sixty per cent of the patients do not need to be here and they are just social cases where the family themselves do not want to take responsibility for the patient," Khan said during a tour of the St Ann's Hospital yesterday.
The tour was part of the minister's agenda to see first hand the condition of the country's public hospitals. Last week he visited the San Fernando General Hospital and is scheduled to tour the Cedros health centre next week.
At the St Ann's mental hospital yesterday, Khan accused families of "dumping" the patients in the institution while misusing grants provided by the State.
"A lot of patients in here are long-staying chronic patients. They are patients but, as we say, they are social patients not so much in-house acute patients," Khan said.
"They are social patients, chronic care patients that do not need to be in a hospital setting because they do not have acute in-house psychiatric illness," he said.
"These patients supposedly have nowhere to go but family come at the end of the month, take them out, and collect their benefits," Khan said.
Khan said the "dumping" has contributed to overcrowding at the psychiatric hospital.
"Sixty per cent are occupying beds, occupying areas, occupying space and they do not need to be here," Khan said.
"The situation is critical. There are long-standing patients whose families are not taking responsibility but are taking their cheques," he said,
Khan said he will be approaching Minister of the People and Social Development, Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh, in an attempt to ensure the grants provided by the State are provided to the institution where the patients are housed.
"We are going to look at a way to stop the benefits, looking at a way to let the benefits come to the hospital while they are in-house," Khan said.
Khan said the patients are in need of personal items such as clothes, toiletries and medicine and the grants can be utilised to ensure their needs are adequately provided for.
Plans are afoot to construct a half-house outside of the St Ann's Hospital to assist the dumped patients, Khan said.
Khan said it is time to correct the misconception created by Hollywood movies that portray mental patients as "dangerous".
"A lot of these patients can be released and filtered into the population," Khan said.
Khan also said St Ann's has seen a "high incidence" of young people being admitted to the institution for "psychosis as a result of marijuana and alcohol".
Khan said security, including the installation of closed-circuit television cameras, will be beefed up at the hospital.
Shuttle services will soon be provided for patients and staff at the hospital, he added.