MHMS seeking funds for mental health facility work: PS McNeil


MINISTRY of Health and Medical Services is looking at locating funds to improve the mental health facility at National Referral Hospital this year.

This was after the contractor could not start work on the facility due to delay of payment after the Central Tender Board had awarded the tender already.

Permanent secretary of MHMS, Pauline McNeil said they are picking up on it this year so they can locate funds and allow construction to start.

Furthermore, McNeil said they have finalised the Mental Health policy last year and should go to Cabinet early next month, so they can have legal regulation around mental health in the country.

She said once get out of way, they can move on to legislate mental health issues.

According to Ashok N. Singh and Paul Orotaloa, mental health has been attracting increasing attention in the Solomon Islands, with growing support for the adoption of a broad national mental health policy.

Following agreement between the Ministry of Health and medical services, and the World Health Organization, a short-term consultant was mobilised from October 2008 to January 2009 to assist with the development of this policy.

As part of the intensive consultation process, over 120 individuals were interviewed, including senior national and provincial staff of the Ministry of Health, non-governmental organisations, church leaders and relatives and carers for people with mental disorders.

The feedback from a workshop and the consultation process was then incorporated into the national mental health policy.

The Mental Treatment Act 1970 consolidated the law relating to people of unsound mind and makes better provision for the care of persons suffering from mental disorders and for their custody, as well as governing the management and control of mental hospitals.

There is now an attempt to include community and primary care facilities within the remit of the Act.

The Act was amended in 1995 by two external consultants and attempts are now being made for its revision and passage through Parliament.

The country’s sole consultant psychiatrist (the second author) is responsible for the assessment of persons suffering from mental disorder under the Act. Formal mental health services in the Solomon Islands date back to 1950, when an asylum was established in Honiara, the capital.

It was principally a place for custody of anyone considered a danger to society or unable to care for themselves. In 1977, the government built a new 15-bed mental hospital on the grounds of Kilu’ufi Hospital in Auki, Malaita Province.

In 1984, 12 new beds were added to accommodate female patients.

Like its predecessor, the facility lacked qualified mental health staff and adequate resources.

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