Ghana’s entire mental health system is being threatened by financial crisis as donor funding, which has been driving the sector, is set to be cut off by the end of June this year.
The situation, according to the Chief Executive of the Ghana Health Authority, is likely to bring back ‘cash-and-carry’ at the three psychiatric hospitals in the country if immediate intervention from government does not kick in.
Also, the Mental Health Authority, which he said has been operating on donor support since the beginning of the year will be forced to shutdown at the end of June this year.
“The mental Health situation in terms of finances is dire; dire in the sense that we are already in the middle of the year and have not had any financial releases by the ministry [of Finance]” Dr. Akwasi Osei said.
He added: “The Mental Health Authority itself has been supported all along by donor partner and the support by the donor partner is coming to an end by the end of June and if it happens that way and we are not getting releases from the ministry, we will be forced to shutdown because we cant operate without funding”.
Dr. Osei said the budget for the Authority and the three psychiatric hospitals in the country for the year 43 million cedis but said “if we are not getting anything, that becomes worrisome”.
He said once the donor support is cut and government does not release funding to them, they will not even be able to keep their lights on or even get cleaners to tidy up their offices.
“On the part of the psychiatric hospitals, they will also not be able to admit patients. In their case, not so much because of donor funding being cut but the sense that they are also not getting the support, the releases from the ministry” he stated.
According to Dr. Osei, the hospitals are running out of funds and are now only being supported by benevolent organisations and philanthropists among others.
He however observed such benevolence was going down so if they don’t get funds from the government, “they will be forced either to return to cash and carry… or the hospitals will not attend to them”.
Meanwhile, he said the Authority is engaging with the Ministry of Health on the way forward.
Last month Dr. Osei painted a gloomy picture about government support to psychiatric healthcare, stating, “the psychiatric hospitals have received not even a pesewa. So you can imagine how they are surviving,”
According to him, the Authority, which is in charge of mental health delivery in the country, has not received any budgetary allocation from government almost half way into the year, a situation that has stalled mental healthcare delivery in the country.
But Health minister Mr. Kwaku Agyeman-Manu said the claims by the Dr. Kwesi Osei are hard to believe because they do not reflect the situation on the ground.
“It’s quite unfortunate…if that is what is coming out I don’t know what might have prompted him to have said that. I still do not want to believe that is what he said”, Mr. Manu said on 3FM.
He explained that they inherited a huge debt from the previous administration but the government has since been able to clear some of the debt and is doing all it can to make things work.
“We inherited massive debt from the mental health authority, last year we managed to give them psyco-medications. All we need to do to support mental health; I think government has been playing its part.
“We have cleared virtually some significant portion of the debt that we inherited in terms of feeding and other expenditures that have been made on credit to support mental health patients”, said
By Stephen Kwabena Effah