Partit Demokratiku calls for concrete action plan for psychiatric care sector

PD candidate Godfrey Farruiga said the party would be pushing for a more patient-centric approach and a greater emphasis on community care

The PD will be pushing for increased psychiatric services to be given within the community
The PD will be pushing for increased psychiatric services to be given within the community

According to Partit Demokratiku, which forms together with the Nationalist Party the Forza Nazzjonali coalition, more needs to be done to ensure proper care for roughly 3-4% of the population who live with some form of psychiatric illness.

Former health minister, and PD candidate Godfrey Farrugia said that following the introduction of mental health laws in 2013, a concrete action plan must now be implemented that sets tangible targets for the sector, as well as addresses the problem of a lack of human resources.

“We are here because there needs to be a more patient-centric approach to mental health, which should be given more importance,” he said.

According to Farrugia, the migration of psychiatric services to Mater Dei had originally been proposed by him in 2013 but was shelved, only be revived on the eve of the election.

Farrugia, together with party leader Marlene Farrugia and a number of other candidates, was speaking at a press conference held outside Mount Carmel psychiatric hospital.

In addition to a clear action plan, Farrugia said that the PD would also be pushing for increased psychiatric services to be given within the community, a leap in quality that will take place together with a shift to a hospital within the Mater Dei complex, and an increased focus on acute and preventative treatment.

Farrugia said that while some 400 beds at Mount Carmel hospital were dedicated to psychiatric cases, it was only 150 who actually needed to be in a psychiatric hospital. For this reason, he said, PD would be pushing for an increase in community-based healthcare.

“In addition to the migration of the hospital to the Mater Dei complex there should also be a leap in quality of care given,” he said, adding that health centres within communities should have multidisciplinary teams that are able to give patients the necessary care.

Furthermore, he said family doctors should be the focal point of mental health care and that there should also be a 24-hour crisis intervention team the able to deal with psychiatric emergencies.

In addition to giving a high-quality treatment, Farrugia also emphasised the need for better preventative care and the need to address mental health issues in youths, starting at a primary school level of education and going all the way up to university level.

He said that 80% of all mental health problems tend to develop within this age bracket, many of which were either related to problems in the family, or to addiction, including addiction to electronics and social media, in particular.  

Another aspect of life that is often the cause of mental health issues, such as depression, is the work place, Farrugia said, who underscored the negative effects of precarious work and other difficult working conditions.

Farrugia insisted that there were specific classes of patients for whom there was “no place”, such as psychogeriatric patients – elderly citizens suffering with psychiatric conditions.

Farrugia explained that in many cases, these people would end up scattered across a number of different healthcare facilities like St Vincent de Paul or Karin Grech hospital, when what they really required was care that was specially intended for them and which could be administered within the community.