'Let's not make a political issue out of mental health law', Galea urges MPs

Amendments to the law see the setting up of a Commissioner whose role will be to see that the patients’ rights are safeguarded.

The proposed amendments to the Mental Health Act demand a multi-disciplinary care for the patient.
The proposed amendments to the Mental Health Act demand a multi-disciplinary care for the patient.

Kicking off the debate on the Mental Health Act parliamentary secretary Mario Galea urged Members of Parliament to bring a constructive debate to the table. He appealed to the MPs not to use the debate to try and score political points: "This is already an issue which carries a lot of stigma and we shouldn't make it any more difficult to those who suffer from mental health problems."

He noted that the law shouldn't be controversial.

The proposed amendments to the Mental Health Act - which has been in the pipeline for over a decade - see the patient being placed at the core of the law which emphasises the need for the patient to take an active role in deciding and discussing with the multi-disciplinary team his care.

Galea emphasised the ultimate aim of the proposed amendments which highlight the safeguarding of the patients' rights.

He said the act will empower the patients where the patient, or the responsible carer, will now be given the right to agree and consent to any treatment offered.

The Act establishes a Commissioner for the Promotion of Rights of Persons with Mental Disorders.

"His role will not be of a clinical nature. He will not interfere with the kind of care the patient will receive but he will ascertain that the rights of the patient are safeguarded at all times," Galea said this evening.

Galea said this was a much needed reform, especially because the patient has a minimal role in the current law. The amendments also put in black and white the need for multi-disciplinary care with the aim of providing an effective and efficient care.

"The ultimate aim is for the patient to be reintegrated in society as soon as possible. In fact, government is also offering services within the community. This means that patients will not be forced to receive care within an institution, unless they are a danger to themselves or to others," he said.

Galea said the amendments calls for an efficient care while introducing the concept of accountability by those giving the care.

The amendments also allow the patient to choose his own responsible carer. "This doesn't mean that the carer has to be the next of kin. There have been cases were the next of kin didn't have the patient's best interest. Moreover, the carer must present to the commissioner a detailed audit of the patient's belongings," he said.

The Commissioner will also have the power to ask for a carer to be changed if the commissioner deems that the carer is in any way abusing of the patient's situation.

Galea said it was important to give the patient, especially if a minor, the possibility to receive care within the community. In fact, in the cases of minors, the medical professionals would have to submit a detailed report on why a child must receive care within an institution. Timeframe for involuntary care within an institution for minors have been reduced to four weeks. In the case of adults this has been reduced to 10 weeks.

"The patient today is no longer an impassive recipient of the care. At a time when we are seeing an increase in mental health problems - including stress, depression and anxiety - government must do all that is possible to help the patients," he said.

Galea also said that no government or court should interfere with whether a prisoner should be sent to a psychiatric institution if a psychiatrist decides that that should be the case.

Galea said that a reform was already underway in this sector. Services within the community are today given in 40 localities, through the work of 160 professionals. According to Galea, 14,000 persons have made use of such services.

Over the past years government opened five day centres, clinics and set up a Crisis Intervention Team that deals with suicide attempts and mental health emergencies. Only last year, the CIT intervened with almost 1,000 persons. Government is now planning to extend the service during the night as well.

According to a study conducted by the European Union in 2008, suicide is committed every nine minutes in the EU.

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Onor Mario Galea fuq din ghandek problema kbira li hemm bzonn ta’ riforma radikali mill qiegh nett ghax l-esperjenza li ghaddejt minna kull meta nzur qarib ghal hafna snin wasslitni biex tlift kull fiducja li xi pazjent johrog minn Mount Carmel (HOSPITAL) bil-possibilta' li jkun (kwazi) indipendenti…ghax il-pazjent hemm gew huwa numru u numru BISS jistennew sa ma jmut u jnaqqsu wiehed mil-lista …dan li gej hu kaz li hu generiku gewwa Mount Carmel… Hemm pazjenti li ijlom hemm ghal snin twal bejn 7 u 11 il-sena u dan l-ahhar gew iddikjarat li huma residenti hemm billi qed johdulom kwazi l-pensjoni kollha u l-anqas qed jivdallom ghas-sigaretti u biex jiehdu drink u jixtru xi haga mil-canteen ta’ lis-sptar. Gara li f’dawn l-ahhar xhur is-sahha ta’ dawn dejjem qeda sejra lura u meta nigbdu l-attenzjoni lin-nurses dejjem jghajdulna li huma m’ghandom l-ebda awtorita' li jiehdu l-inizjattiva biex jiehdu xi decizjoni dwar il-pazjenti u li huma understaffed u dan jigri billi xi kultant il-pazjenti ikunu qed ibghatu meta jinghataw il-medicina ta’ kuljum peress li xi granet ihossuhom li ghandom jitnaqsulom xi pilloli li jkunu qed igibuwhom qisom ‘zombies’. Hemm nuqqas kbir ta’ nurses u dawn dejjem jilmentaw li ma jistaw jghamlu xejn peress li dejjem ikunu qed jobdu lill ta’ fuqom. Qed jigri wkoll li l-professuri inkarigati mis-swali qed jaraw l-inqas possibli ta’ pazjenti fejn pazjenti jdumu x-xhur biex jigu nvistati mil-professur kurrenti tahhom bil-konsegwenza li lill dawn jibqaw jigu mghotija l-medicina prescritta minn xhur qabel tghamel tajjeb jew le lill-pazjenti. Anke biex jigu invistati mit-tabib (General Practitioner) dwar xi problema fis-sahha bhal infezzjonijiet, deni, griezem etc etc hafna minn dawn it-talbiet ma jitwettqux u l-pazzjent li apparti li jkun qed ibghati mil-problema mentali jibqa jsofri wkoll mil-problema fizika. Qed nikteb dan kollu issa ghax is-sitwazzjoni f’dan lis-sptar qed tmur ghal ghar kuljum. Meta ippruvajt inkellem privatament professor dwar pazjent li qieghed tahtu ma hadtx l-ebda sodisfazzjon apparti li l-professur kwazi kien arrogant u talabni somma sostanzjali ta’ euro wkoll bhala mizata. Apparti dan kollu meta kellimt ZEWG POLITIKANTI t-twegiba dejjem kienet li ahjar li ma tirrapurtax ghax imur hazin il-pazjent. Suppost li hemm wkoll is-social worker assenjata mal-pazjent li ghal xi raguni qatt ma tiehu informazzjoni dwax x’qieghed jigri , thossok li qieghed f’xi kamp ta’ koncentrament li jekk tlissen kelma ittir ir-ras. L-ghar hu li dejjem jigu rrifjutati talbiet biex il-pazjent izuru tabib jew psikjatra privat. U xi nghajdu ghas-swali, qisom gallinari bir-rwejjah qawwija ta’ sigaretti u ta’ arja tqila, m’hemm dixxiplina ta’ xejn bil-pazjenti ipejjpu kullimkien u dan go sptar!!!! u ssugerimenti li jkun hemm smoking room go kull sala dejjem waqaw fuq widnejn torox. Il-Film ‘One Flew Over the Cookoo’s Nest’ hu fjura hdejn dan lis-sptar.