Parliamentarians have demanded that Government provides countrywide counseling services for people struggling with mental health-related complications.
The demand follows a statement presented to Parliament by the Minister of State for Health (General Duties), Anifa Kawooya, on the status of operationalization of the Mental Health Act, 2018 and the increasing need for mental health and psychiatric care in the country during the Tuesday, 10th May plenary sitting.
Kawooya said that Government is on course to implement the new Mental Health Act 2019, which came into force on 18th February 2021.
She noted that the Mental Health Act, 2018 introduces mental health services at the community level, new referral and admission procedures, and has significantly strengthened the protection of rights of people with mental health conditions.
Regarding the medical personnel, the Minister said that as per the Integrated Mental Health Services, a health center IV is required to have an enrolled psychiatric nurse, while a district hospital should have a psychiatric clinical officer and two psychiatric nurses to run a mental health clinic.
She added that the Regional Referral Hospitals should have a psychiatrist and other cadres of mental health workers. said that so far, five out of the 13 regional referral hospital mental health departments are headed by psychiatrists and more than 15 new psychiatrists are being trained.
Kawooya, However, said that the operationalization of the Mental Health Act 20192 has faced challenges of low recruitment of psychiatric personnel in health facilities, non-existence of the Uganda Mental Health Advisory Board to set standards and monitor the implementation of the Act and other regulations to properly enforce the Act.
The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Forum on Mental Health, Geoffrey Macho appealed to Government to allocate resources in the Ministry of Health to cater for mental health because the money allocated to the unit is currently very little.
He appealed to the Government to mainstream mental health treatment in all Government hospitals by increasing funds for psychiatric treatment and upgrading the Mental Health Unit under the Ministry of Health into a department, among others.
He also raised concern oversupply of mental health medicine which has been left in the hands of the private sector which sell it expensively. He appealed to the Government to urgently take over the supply of mental health medicine.
Aruu County MP, Christopher Komakech challenged the MPs to be ambassadors championing the mental health cause. He wondered if the Government had the capacity to recruit and fill up all the vacant psychiatric positions due to the lack of training institutions.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Health Dr. Charles Ayume, said that they are currently processing the Public Health (Amendment) Bill which among others, seeks to capture mental health as one of the Non-Communicable Diseases. He noted that this move will help put more attention on mental health.
The Speaker, Anita Among who chaired the session, also demanded improved psychiatric health services in the country.