The latest Joy News’ Hotline Documentary “ Minds to Mind” recounts the sorry story of an abandoned mentally-ill patient who was unfortunate to get pregnant.
Her ordeal before, during and after her pregnancy is told succinctly to capture the state of Ghana’s mental healthcare delivery.
Thousands of people walk the streets of the world.
According to the Mental health Authority, in 2017, it was estimated that about four million Ghanaians, out of the estimated population of 28million at the time, were suffering from mild to severe mental illness.
Rebecca is one of those. She has lived on the streets of Adentan for many days. She doesn't know what she does every day. She doesn’t know who got her pregnant neither did she know was even pregnant.
Rebecca’s story represents the major lapses in the social welfare system in Ghana and the deficiencies in the care for people with mental illness.
Inside the Pantang Hospital are stories, stories of people who have had different experiences in life; some of which have cost them their sanity.
Rebecca was brought here by neighbors and some officials of the Adentan Municipal Assembly, who brought her here after she was found in labour somewhere on the streets of Adentan.
Rebecca does not seem to realise that she has been pregnant for nine months. She obviously has not received any medical care throughout the full term of the pregnancy.
She was brought to the Pantang Hospital on April 15, 2019. She delivered a bouncy baby boy.
Rebecca remembers a few things like her name. But she claims to be 63 years old.
She should be breastfeeding by now. Her child is just two days old. But health workers here cannot take that risk of allowing Rebecca to hold her own son.
The coordinator for the Psychiatrist and clinical unit of Pantang Hospital, Dr. Leveana Gyima, says separating mother from the baby is not the best but the current state of the mental health institutions is making it difficult to meet world standards.
She may be lost in her thoughts, but she knows where she is and she hates being here. Especially because her child is not with her.
Suddenly, she begins to reflect on the terrible things that have happened to her in this life. She can no longer push back her tears.
After tears rolled down her cheeks, the doctors decided to, at this point, allow Rebecca to see her baby…the baby she has longed to see.
Gradually we walked to block 7, where little baby was being catered for by nurses.
There was a big smile on Rebecca's face when she finally held her baby. It was priceless... The feeling of motherhood.
After close to 30 minutes of holding her baby... She picks up the baby’s food and clothes and tells the nurses she is going home.
But the nurses and the social worker, Daniel, after almost an hour tried to convince her that her family was coming for her. Little did Rebecca know that the family had no intentions of having neither her nor the baby.
Rebecca’s aunt whom we choose to call Esi, says her family is not financially capable of taking care of the baby.
That was a big shock. This meant Rebecca would have to go back to ward 11. The very place she dreaded.
She started becoming angry... Screaming and insulting everyone.
The nurse in charge of the ward, Alberta Bosko Twumasi Ankrah, was worried. She had regrets of letting Rebecca bond with the baby.
At this point, the Doctors had to convince her to take her final injection before going home. Except that this injection was a sedative. She became drowsy.
As we walked back to the ward with nurses guarding and hold Rebecca she kept looking back... To see that one thing that’s made her smile again, her baby!
But just 24 hours after she was taken back into her ward, Rebecca managed to abscond.
This situation put the nurses taking care of the baby in a state of fear. They spent the whole night guarding the baby in a different room. They feared Rebecca would come and attack them.
Ever since Rebecca became mentally challenged, the Adentan Municipal Assembly had been using parts of its Common Fund to cater for her.
The Director of the Social Welfare Department of the municipality, Divine Exorgbe, got in touch with Rebecca’s Aunt to beg them to rescind their decision to give out the baby. It was successful.
But Rebecca’s Aunt still stood by her decision not to cater for Rebecca again.
According to the Mental Health Act, 2012, care for mentally ill patients is supposed to be free. But as it stands, patients have to pay.
Director for Pantang Hospital, Dr. Frank Baning, says this deters many families from bringing their relatives to receive care.
He said the Pantang hospital receives only 3% of their budget from the government.
The three hospitals providing mental healthcare across the country -Accra, Pantang and Ankaful Psychiatric hospitals- have over the years been surviving on the benevolence of philanthropists and suppliers.
Govt only releases funds to the various mental health institutions after threats are issued to release patients onto the streets.