Passionate about community psychiatry, Professor Lesley Robertson spent the bulk of her career as a psychiatrist pushing for mental health reform in South Africa. Now, as head of the community psychiatry clinical unit at Sedibeng District Health Service, she is still pushing – among others to improve the essential medicines lists for psychiatric medicines and shore up community-based networks of churches, community groups, and assisted living homes as soft landings for people in need. Ufrieda Ho spoke to her as part of Spotlight’s Women in Health series.
In recent years there have been various reports with damning findings on the state of mental healthcare services in the Eastern Cape. Luvuyo Mehlwana and Alicestine October assess what has and what hasn’t changed after recommendations from the Public Protector, the Health Ombud, the PSC, and the HSRC, and almost as many undertakings in response by the Eastern Cape Department of Health.
This month it is two years since Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul opened the multimillion-rand Kimberley Mental Health Hospital, calling it a ‘monument of corruption’. By then, Saul said the hospital, which has a capacity of 287 beds, already had 160 patients and will be operationalised in phases. Yet, union Nehawu, community healthcare workers, activists, and some mental health practitioners insist mental health users in the public sector are still disadvantaged because the hospital is still not running at capacity. Refilwe Mochoari reports.