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Medical officer calls for more mental-health nurses in Trelawny

Published:Tuesday | May 28, 2019 | 12:21 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer


With a number of cases of mentally ill persons attacking, maiming and killing other persons in recent years, the medical officer for Trelawny is hoping for a propping up of resources to adequately treat and care for patients across the parish in a timely manner. At the top of her wish list is additional staff and at least one dedicated vehicle to assist in caring for mentally ill patients.

Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, Dr Diahann Dale expressed grave concerns, saying the situation was hampering the Trelawny Health Department’s efforts to adequately treat mental-health patients.

“We need more mental-health officers and psychiatric aides to bolster our team in terms of responding across the different aspects of our service,” explained Dale. “We need two more mental-health nurses and six more psychiatric nursing aides. Currently, we have on duty four community mental-health nurses and five psychiatric nursing aides.

“Additionally, we need a dedicated vehicle to support the psychiatric emergency and maintenance team that is deployed to do crisis response and the maintenance house visits to clients who don’t come to a health facility for their regular follow-ups,” continued Dale. “We don’t have a vehicle assigned to the parish to support that, so sometimes we have to wait on a vehicle that’s serving the other parishes to come to us.”

Earlier this month, 56-year-old Jennifer Gordon and her five-year-old grandson, Levon Walker, were chopped to death at their home in Martha Brae, some three miles from the parish capital Falmouth, by Gordon’s mentally ill son, Leon Whyte.

The 28-year-old Whyte, who was reportedly under the care of the Trelawny Health Department but had apparently stop taking his medication, was shot and killed by the police, who he reportedly attacked when they went to investigate the killing of his mother and nephew.

In December 2016, a 70-year-old newspaper vendor Joycelyn Gomez was attacked and chopped to death in Falmouth by a man of unsound mind, who cornered her and inflicted multiple chop wounds before anyone could come to her rescue.

Dale said the struggle to adequately care for persons with mental issues is compounded by the fact that their relatives are usually reluctant to help with their care. As a consequence, many mentally ill persons are left on their own without any family support.

“We need persons to acknowledge that they can support the care that persons need, starting, especially, with the family members. That’s one of the biggest challenges in terms of persons with mental-health conditions. The family support that would help them to maintain their treatment is [usually] not there,” Dale lamented.