Butabika seeks sh18b for mental healthcare

By Andrew Ssenyonga

The country currently has 30 psychiatrists


Butabika National Referral Hospital is seeking sh18b to cope with the escalating number of mental health illness cases at the institution.

According to Dr. David Basangwa, the institution's executive director, the number of patients has increased from 450 in the last three years to 850 patients which is a burden to the facility.

These need medical care, accommodation, feeding and human resource among others. The hospital currently has a bed capacity of 500 psychiatric beds and approximately 430 staff.

"For the past years, government has been allocating sh12.5b to the institution for non-wages, wages and development of the facility," he explained.

He added that this was later supplemented with sh2b that has been used to equip the institution with drugs.

However, during a media breakfast engagement on the status of mental health in Uganda recently in Kampala, Basangwa said the funds are not enough to cater for increasing of cases reported on a daily basis.

"The funds are needed to beef up the current staff that has been overwhelmed by the influxes of mental cases, retooling and other hospital requirements," he explained.

Basangwa also noted that the hospital is grappling with discharged patients who are stigmatised in their communities and end up returning to the facility.

The permanent secretary to health ministry, Dr. Diana Atwine, blamed the high number of mental health illnesses to alcohol and drug abuse.

"It is on record that 30% of the patients admitted at Butabika Hospital are a result of drug and alcohol abuse and this has been due to the continued importation, manufacturing, sale and consumption of alcoholic sachets," she explained.

Atwine asked the trade ministry to put in force the proposed ban on alcohol sold in plastic sachets, saying they have caused mental disorder, death and accidents among others.

"Government needs to move very fast to address the problem of alcohol abuse and save the country," she said.

The trade minister earlier indicated that the ban that was slated to take effect in September 2017, had been extended to March 2019.

On the issue of under staffing in the department, Atwine said the discipline was not lucrative.

The country currently has 30 psychiatrists, 427 PCOs and 700 psychiatric nurses engaged in active mental health service.

"By July, we will have an increment in the staffing after getting assurance from the Health Service Commission that has embarked on a recruitment exercise," she explained.

The ministry is also worried by the increasing cases epilepsy in the country.

According to Dr. Hasfa Lukwata, the senior medical officer, mental health, at the ministry, research shows that epilepsy is on the rise in the country especially in the western region.

Lukwata said in 2012, the registered number in patients with epilepsy conditions was 4120, 4563 in 2013, increased to 5373 in 2014, before rising to 5519 in 2016 and shot to 8727 in 2017.

"These are reports to the ministry by the facilities using the health information management system countrywide," she said.

She attributed the cause to poor deliveries which lead to the development of epilepsy among children.