ANTALYA / RİZE - Doğan News Agency
This file photo shows a copy of Rodin’s Thinking Man sculpture, located in the garden in Istanbul’s Bakırköy Mental Hospital. Hürriyet photo.
A new health plan that suggests closing eight psychiatric hospitals in Turkey has received much criticism from members of the Psychiatric Association and psychiatrists.
Health Minister Recep Akdağ revealed the national mental health action plan on Oct. 10 in the hopes of preventing long-term stays at mental hospitals because long-term stays makes the system less efficient, the ministry said, adding that the staff’s behavior changed when people stay in the hospital longer.
“We will establish community-based mental health clinics that will oversee the patients in every city,” said Gazi Alataş, the coordinator of the plan.
Alataş said doctors, especially those close to patient associations, should become involved in the plan as the ministry is open to all views in the interests of improving the system.
“It is true that we are lacking health staff, expert doctors and accommodation for inpatient treatment,” Alataş said in discussing the process to fix the physical conditions. “We are going to increase the number of beds for 100,000 people from ages 8 to 13.”
But Burhanettin Kaya, the general-secretary of the Psychiatric Association, said that if the psychiatric hospitals were closed, many patients could be left homeless in the transition process and would have a difficult time integrating back into society.
“Now only 360 people stay in the chronic department among 1,500 people in Bakırköy Hospital. We cannot say the hospitals are full with inpatient treatment cases,” Alataş said.
In a response to criticism from Ali Özyurt, head of the Istanbul Medical Chamber, that the government was planning to demolish the Bakırköy Hospital and use the land for economically valuable projects, Alataş said they would construct many new, state-of-the-art hospitals with as many as 2,300 beds in the area.
“We already received the license from the Council of Monuments that allows only public health intuitions to be constructed in the area,” Alataş said.
Psychiatrist Ayhan Akcan, on the other hand, said the system was a copy of the Italian and British models.
“They are supported by a powerful social service and expert nurse system,” Akcan said, adding that as the clinic doctors would able to give more medicines to patients, that could whet the drug companies’ appetite.
Emphasizing that the Turkish model would have its own dynamics, Alataş said the model first has been tested in the northwestern province of Bolu and had been successful.
“In the pilot city, we observed that in three years, the numbers of patients who need inpatient treatments was cut in half while the dosage of medicines decreased between one-third and one-quarter,” Alataş said.