NURSES and other staff at Ingutsheni Central Hospital in Bulawayo have been accused of physically assaulting their patients among other forms of abuse.
The institution has also confirmed that the abuse of mental patients, with its chief executive officer Dr Nemache Mawere investigations were underway to bring the culprits to book after the matter came to the attention of management.
Ingutsheni, located at Belmont in Bulawayo is the country’s largest mental health referral institution. It offers psychiatric, also known as mental health care and deals with among other mental issues, depression and anxiety.
The Sunday News reports that inmates have over the years been allegedly subjected to beating, forced cleaning and washing of dishes. It quotes a former staff member who is now a nurse in the United Kingdom who confessed she witnessed the abuse by other staffers.
“The abuse has gone out of hand and it was spearheaded by a nurse at the Khumalo ward. He would beat up patients and force them to do cleaning duties. The reason why I did not report the issue was fear of victimisation,” said the former nurse.
One of the victims, a former inmate Sipho Mazibuko, who now champions “ills against mentally challenged people” said she once fell victim to the abuse.
“Recently a lady came to me to talk about the abuse after she had come out of the institution. Sadly, she was readmitted recently and her sisters are complaining about the state at the institution.
“I myself was admitted to St Mary’s ward 10 years ago and I was also hit by a nurse when I refused to wash dishes. I also refused to shine the floors and I clearly told them that I knew my rights as a patient,” said Mazibuko.
She said however, some of the nurses were very professional.
“In order to stand up for the inmates I have formed a trust called Mental Voices whose main aim is to fight stigmatisation. The trust also aims at highlighting issues such as abuse of mental health patients at their homes as well as in hospitals,” she said.
Dr Mawere said investigations are ongoing and highlighted that overcrowding at some of the wards could be fuelling such actions.
“The issue has come to light and we are currently doing investigations where we want to establish if the abuse is staff to patient or patient to patient. This is something that cannot be left unattended and there are possibilities that such rumours are true.
“At wards like the Khumalo Ward, the carrying capacity is around 98 but currently the ward houses over 140 inmates which is a cause of concern. As an institution we are also in the process of educating more of our staff on the need to practice their profession to perfection and follow all ethics.
“It is worrying that such issues are coming to light from former staff who are not with the institution and only open up on such a serious issue when they have left the place,” said Dr Mawere. □