By Jantina Kamminga and Youlendree Appasamy
Life is improving for patients and staff at Fort England Psychiatric Hospital. According to the hospital’s CEO Roger Walsh various new equipment along with renovations to aging infrastructure has breathed new life into the hospital. The fitness of patients and staff is a priority for the hospital, Walsh said. A gym has been recently created for use by patients and staff. On weekdays patients have a walking group and the tennis courts have been resurfaced. The tuckshop has recently undergone renovation and now includes healthier food options. Therapy projects which have been spruced up include a gardening project, art therapy, woodwork projects where furniture is restored for money, pottery and a carwash project.
“A lot of these projects give the patients a small amount of income, too, which they can spend at the tuckshop,” Walsh said. A crèche, Carebears, was started at the hospital in September last year. The crèche offers day-care and after-care assistance for toddlers aged one to seven years old. Nosibulelo Mplatyi is the manager, with four support staff to help her with the little ones. 27 children are under Mplatyi’s care.
Maintenance improvements include five energy-efficient heat pumps and a 5 000 litre hot water tank at each ward. “Before we got this tank, only the first ten to fifteen patients had a hot shower and now they all have a hot shower,” said Walsh. “It will save the hospital about half a million rand a year which we can then use for other quality improvement projects to benefit patients and staff.” The newly-bought Hydroblaster injects water and air under extremely high pressure through sanitation pipes, so as to easily remove blockages and keep piping clear.
Dunyiswa Mathanga, Quality Assurance Co-ordinator for Fort England, has been working at the hospital for 12 years. Both Mathanga and Walsh say that patient health issues have been difficult to deal with in the past.
“We’ve had enormous problems with the sewage and the blocking up and backing up of sanitation,” said Walsh.
Besides maintenance improvements, the patient wards have improved too. Flat-screen televisions were placed in common room areas and new concrete benches placed outside ward areas.
Catherine Letcher, secretary of Friends of Fort England organisation, definitely sees the changes at Fort England. “Dr Walsh has made positive changes for staff and patients. It has been a bonus for him to have joined the hospital”, she said.
The crèche and other projects have been funded in part by the newly-instated hospital board, which ensures that the hospital runs at its most efficient. “We’ve sat and we’ve planned, we have looked at supplies. It has been difficult because we do not always have the skills internally so we’ve looked externally and further afield to Public Works. We get a big budget from the National Health Budget and the National Tertiary Services Grant – we are quite fortunate for this because, unlike other hospitals, we get this extra lump sum of money,” said Walsh.