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Mental health services require ‘transformation’

“Mount Carmel Hospital, and by implication mental health in Malta, are still considered a second priority to the rest of the local public health sector.” Photo: Jonathan Borg

“Mount Carmel Hospital, and by implication mental health in Malta, are still considered a second priority to the rest of the local public health sector.” Photo: Jonathan Borg

Local mental health services require a transformation which could only be achieved through a national strategy, the Alliance for Mental health said.

The alliance insisted that the national strategy should encompass “all levels of care”, including acute, rehabilitative and community care. The national strategy was “required if mental health services were to reach the standards that are acceptable on an international level”.

The organisation was reacting to last week’s National Audit Office report on Mount Carmel Hospital, which found serious shortcomings, including problems with staff and security.

The Audit Office said that Mount Carmel Hospital’s current unacceptable condition was the result of the long-standing legacy of the government’s lack of commitment towards mental health.

Process to effect change is lengthy, must be funded adequately, with rigorous plans

“This audit has shown that Mount Carmel Hospital, and by implication mental health in Malta, are still considered a second priority to the rest of the local public health sector,” the Audit Office said.

The alliance said it felt “encouraged by the recommendations put forward by the NAO”, arguing that these closely reflected what the alliance has repeatedly stated.

Developing a new acute facility remained “a priority”, and the organisation insisted that community care services should be bolstered, developed further and appropriately resourced to provide a first point of call.

“Management and operational practices need to be upgraded if standards are to improve,” the alliance insisted.

“The process to effect such change is a lengthy one and must be adequately funded and rigorously planned, and a national strategy would be the only way to ascertain that this happens,” it added.

It expressed hope the recommendations of the NAO would be implemented with immediacy.

Mental Health Commissioner John Cachia told the Times of Malta last week that the momentum on works at Mount Carmel Hospital “needed to be sustained”.

Recommendations from his office, the public mental health services, NGOs and now the Auditor General on a strategic way forward for the hospital abounded, Dr Cachia said.

“The challenge is to translate these recommendations into coherent implementation plans that are appropriately funded and accompanied by sound human resource planning and ongoing staff training within the shortest possible time frame.”

“Robust and resilient leadership is fundamental to bringing about the desired organisational and operational changes targeted at the well-being of patients, families and staff,” Dr Cachia added.

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