Jamaica News: Director of Mental Health Services in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Kevin Goulbourne, says changes have been implemented in mental health clinics islandwide to ensure the safety of staff and patients as the country grapples with COVID-19.
In an interview with JIS News, Dr. Goulbourne explained that the COVID-19 outbreak creates unprecedented challenges for the mental health teams and that these have to be carefully navigated for the best outcomes.
“In dealing with our mental health patients we have to bear in mind that they may have to attend to persons who have been exposed to COVID-19, so our teams have had to be properly trained in the correct usage of personal protective equipment,” he explained.
“We have also had to train our team on how to do our clinics differently,” he said, adding that the triage process is done before patients enter to ensure that those persons who may have a fever, a cough or other symptoms of COVID-19 are treated separately and do not mix with other patients who are waiting.
According to Dr. Goulbourne, the clinics are not currently operating at full capacity. He said persons are scheduled to limit the number of patients on one day.
He added that public mental health clinics have also been extending the time between appointments to prevent the patients from having to travel to and fro, while ensuring that they have enough medication to last them over the period of time.
“We have also asked the relatives to play a key role in ensuring that the patients take their medication to prevent a relapse which would create a challenge, as we now have fewer bed spaces within the system, so we’re trying to keep our patients as stable as possible,” the Mental Health Director explained.
Dr. Goulbourne pointed out that changes have also been made to the approach to home visits.
“We have been trying to encourage our teams to make sure they call ahead where possible, to speak to either the patient or the patient’s relatives to ensure that neither the patient nor anybody in the household has any signs or symptoms of COVID-19,” he informed.
He explained that in the event where a mental health patient is displaying symptoms of COVID-19, the mental health team would be accompanied by a team from public health to provide the necessary assistance, in case the person needs to be quarantined or isolated (if found to be positive).
Dr. Goulbourne advised that if mentally unstable persons are seen on the road and deemed to be in need of care, concerned citizens can contact any public health department or the psychology team in that parish or region by calling the mental health suicide-prevention helpline 888 NEW LIFE (639-5433).
Source: JIS News