By Richard Komakech
and Charles Ariko
A PROJECT worth US$20m (about sh40b) for the rehabilitation of the national mental health hospital at Butabika has kicked off.
The rehabilitation is part of a US$43.9m project being funded by the African Development Bank and the Government under the support to the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP).
Health minister Brig. Jim Muhwezi on Thursday broke the ground for the project to provide functional rehabilitation of the hospital.
The project will include provision of drugs and equipment and training of staff.
Several new structures and a fence are also to be added to the hospital.
Built in 1963, Butabika is Ugandaâ€™s only mental health referral hospital. Eleven districts in the North and Northeast will benefit from the project funding.
The hospital is also being expanded to offer clinical services to the public to help reduce the influx of patients to Mulago Hospital.
â€œWhile Butabika will continue as a referral hospital for mental cases, it is important that it offers clinical services to the public to decongest the number of people who flock Mulago,â€ Muhwezi said.
The hospital director, Dr. Fred Kigozi, said they currently handle about 200 out-patients daily, apart from the 400 mentally ill patients accommodated there. He said the majority of the out-patients were children.
Muhwezi said the Government will now be in position to handle more patients and will cater for new research in mental health.
Under the project, six 32-bed mental health units are to be constructed at the regional referral hospitals in Gulu, Arua, Soroti, Kabale, Fort Portal and Mbale, to cater for mental cases in rural areas.