Three years after getting approval, the state health department is finally in the process of starting four courses related to mental health in three regional mental hospitals — Thane, Pune and Nagpur. Pune was the first to open a centre of excellence for mental wellbeing in the state.
The initiative has been taken as part of the National Mental Health Mission with an aim to produce more specialists and fill up vacant posts at these hospitals.
Mental health is one of the biggest health concerns in the country and there is a huge gap in demand and availability of experts in this sphere of specialised healthcare. Nearly 70 per cent posts in the four regional hospitals of Maharashtra are lying vacant currently.
Data gathered by The Indian Express reveal that of the nine sanctioned posts for psychiatrists at the Nagpur mental hospital that sees at least 1,400 admissions annually, only three have been filled. The situation in Thane mental hospital is, however, the worst as, till August this year, all eight posts of psychiatrists were vacant.
To address the manpower deficit, the state health department has decided to introduce courses for medical students on management of mental illnesses. This includes diploma courses in psychiatric nursing, MD in psychiatry, M Phil courses in clinical psychology and psychiatric social work.
As per data provided by the state health department, 16 students each would be selected for M Phil courses in clinical psychology and psychiatric social work. A total of 40 students would be appointed for diploma courses in psychiatric nursing and another four for MD in psychiatry. Some of the courses have already been initiated at Pune mental hospital.
“The current shortage of skilled health workers to provide mental health services will make it difficult to deal with mental health problems in the years to come, if the shortage isn’t addressed on time. The need of the hour is thus to increase the number of trained personnel providing mental health services at all levels,” Dr Sadhana Tayade, director of health services said.
As part of this project, these hospitals would be turned into centres of excellence, focusing on training of mental health teams, increasing awareness and reducing stigma related to mental health problems, providing services for early detection, treatment of mental illness, and collecting valuable data.
“Just like other medical colleges, these medical students would be trained and simultaneously, would also treat the patients. This would immediately help address the issue of shortage of medical and semi-medical staffers. In the long run, the project would create more specialists on mental health,” Dr Purushottam Madavi, medical superintendent of the Nagpur mental hospital, said.
Further, under the project, the government would allocate separate staff for mental health management. The centres would also comprise a lecture hall, principal room and staff room.