HYDERABAD: The Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC), following its inspection team’s March 20 visit to the Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Institute of Psychiatry, has urged the provincial health secretary to pay due consideration to its recommendations, primarily increased budgetary allocations, to help the institute overcome its “critical deficiencies”.

SHRC Chairman Iqbal Detho, in a communication to the secretary on Tuesday, said that the inspection team headed by him had visited the institute with the overarching objective of scrutinising conditions and standards of mental health services at this facility.

The inspection team felt that there was a pressing need for concerted efforts to address the challenges being faced by this healthcare facility. The critical deficiencies included shortage of staff, infrastructure, patient services and budgetary allocations which required immediate attention.

The commission urged the health secretary to prioritise resource allocation and expedite recruitment process to address the issues.

The SHRC has attached its inspection report with the communication and suggested that health department should pay due consideration to six key areas mentioned under subtitles like staff shortage and infrastructure deficiencies; implementation of holistic patient care initiatives; vocational and non-formal education; establishment of old-age home facility; strengthening of support services for vulnerable patients and legislative advocacy; and compliance for drafting rules of implementation of the Sindh Mental Health Care Act-2019. Some of these measures are supposed to be taken by health department in consultation with culture and law departments, Sindh technical education authorities and Nadra.

‘A unique institution’

According to the inspection report, the Sir Cowasjee Jehangir Institute of Psychiatry is a unique institution dedicated to provision of mental healthcare services. With a multidisciplinary team of mental health professionals comprising psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and psychiatry nurses, the institute strives to deliver evidence-based interventions tailored to cater to the needs of each patient.

Despite being such a unique institution, the mental healthcare facility faces myriad challenges in fulfilling its mandate effectively. From staff shortage to infrastructural limitations, it grapples with countless obstacles that impede its ability to provide optimal care and support to individuals in need for rehabilitative nature. As an integral component of mental healthcare landscape in Sindh, the institute plays an indispensable role in safeguarding health and well-being of community.

Elaborating the six specified areas, the commission suggested that vacant positions must be filled by prioritising recruitment of psychiatrists urgently and to chalk out clear strategies to attract and retain qualified professionals, besides recruiting lower-grade workers. It suggested partnerships with academic institutions, teaching hospitals and professional bodies.

It stressed allocation of adequate funds for the procurement of ambulances and essential medical equipment. It also called for a maintenance plan for the existing infrastructure.

The commission advised culture department to introduce a patient care programme featuring indoor recreational activities and music therapy to support patients’ rehabilitation and well-being.

For vocational and non-formal education of patients, the SHRC suggested, a partnership could be established between the hospital and the Sindh Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Stevta).

The commission is of the view that a separate building should be established for the under treatment elderly and senior citizens.

It has proposed effective implementation of the Sindh Mental Health Act-2019 and its rules for the rights and welfare of individuals with mental health disorders. It said that relevant authorities and stakeholders should be engaged to expedite adoption and implementation of legislative reforms aimed at improving mental healthcare services.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2024

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