South Africa 11.6.2015 10:00 am

Mental Health Fed probes Bara restraints

The entrance to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is pictured, 7 June 2015, in Soweto, Johannesburg. Evidence has emerged showing that staff have been abusing patients. Picture: Alaister Russell

The entrance to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is pictured, 7 June 2015, in Soweto, Johannesburg. Evidence has emerged showing that staff have been abusing patients. Picture: Alaister Russell

The South African Federation of Mental Health (SAFMH) has called for an investigation into the method of restraining psychiatric patients at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital casualty ward.

On Monday, The Citizen published an article in which a credible source revealed that patients at the hospital were being restrained with the use of bandages, instead of specially designed and appropriate restraints.

The use of bandages was alleged to have caused some patients to suffer bruising and nerve damage.

“Casualty has this policy, which is appalling. Any patient they suspect of having a psychiatric illness they physically restrain. The hospital has run out of, misplaced or broken the appropriate restraints … which are padded. So they tie them up with bandages – to the stretchers on wheels,” said the source.

“We have complained several times because we have seen nerve damage as a result of patients being tied up too tight.

“If their wrists are tied up too tight, their hands don’t work any more. We have had some quite serious repercussions from that.”

The source claimed that the hospital does not have the appropriate restraints in stock and as a result had used bandages as a replacement.

SAFMH said “making use of bandages and other materials to restrain patients instead of appropriate restraints is against the Mental Health Care Act, as it endangers the health of patients.

“Reports of patients [suffering]nerve damage and physical injuries due to these restraints are very serious, and should be investigated,” said SAFMH.

The Gauteng department of health however had a different take, saying: “If bandages are used they should be well padded and patients have to be closely observed as indicated in the Act.”

The department did not confirm that it would investigate the way patients were restrained at the hospital. Mental health was a “priority” and it regularly conducted assessments, including the restraining of patients, at health facilities.

The federation and the department agreed that the physical restraint of a patient should be a final option. – alexm@citizen.co.za

 

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