My day at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital

6:38:00 PM

There is so much to look forward to in the Kenyan mental health scene

I spent the better part of today at Mathari National Teaching and Referral Hospital (note it is not Mathari Mental Hospital, it is the National Teaching and Referral Hospital...learn more about the hospital here) I was there as part of the support services we give our clients, I was accompanying one who needed to be assessed for an ongoing court proceeding. The last time I did so many rounds at the hospital was when we were discharging Conjestina and we were playing hide and seek with the media (wheeeew I miss Conjestina).

We got to Mathari Hospital at around 9a in the morning and headed straight to the pay point to make some payment for a file search (the client had done a few clinic visits at the hospital). There was a growing but moving queue with the occasional patient with schizophrenia singing, abusing, wailing and at times doing a mix of all the above. After we paid a fee of Ksh 50.00 (fifty shillings) for file retrieval, the process was a walk in the park, the file organization is still old school but very on point. The only hold up was for those who needed to see a doctor, there was none to attend to them. 

We were sent to Ward 9 where our client was at and as we walked there, I couldn’t help but notice the redone wards thanks to a donation by Safaricom Foundation during the Kenya at 50 celebrations. I openly spoke about my feelings that the money, Ksh 50Million, should have partly been used for other things like awareness creation but hey that’s just my opinion which I still stick to by the way. The wards looked pretty and there was a wall fence and the usual sight of the patients peeping through the fence trying to make conversation with anyone who passed by and gave them a glance was no more. (Photography is only by permission at the hospital that’s why I didn’t take any, no one was policing me but I just didn’t want to do it)

When we got to Ward 9, there was a lady who looked 60-ish (60 is the new sexy by the way, have you seen this 50 something and 60 something ladies, they are giving us 20 somethings, yes us 20 somethings a run for our money) who had brought her son, who looked late 20 – early 30,(yes today I had my age measure glasses on) for review and she went on and on about how he had been a pain and at some point I wanted to jump in and give her my two cents, but as she spoke, i got to see where she was coming from and the freedom that release gave her, and she kept speaking, I wondered, who cares for caregivers? Who looks at the stress this lady and many like her go through trying to keep her family together and not give up on their sons and daughters despite it all? In my mind, I made a mental note for support group sessions for care givers, we are beginning one for parents of kids with cerebral palsy soon at the office but it would be amazing to teach care givers how to manage stress lest they end up with depression. Other than that, Ward 9 was all sorts of amazing, I got to play draft, the original one with bottle tops and a black and white board (I was on a winning spree so you know, made another mental note to make one for the office to use during our group therapy sessions)

The last bit of my run round Mathari Hospital was getting a stamped letter from the admin area where I popped in to say hi to my good friend, Dr. Kisivuli who is also the Medical Super indent. As the letter was being prepared, he told me of the amazing things happening at the hospital but what caught my ear was the medically assisted therapy (MAT) using methadone for heroin dependent individuals which had more than 170 patients getting the FREE directly observed treatment. It is among the many outpatient services that the hospital offers (you all know they do general hospital things like maternity et al). 

Another thing we touched on was on how best to get more people to take up psychiatry and increase the number of professionals in the field. For second, I considered actually going ahead and applying for the course but we all know me, 6 years of med school is just not my cup of tea plus there are interventions in the mental health movement, like the mhGAP and discussions around innovation and technology using telemedicine et al, all looking at to narrow the gap between those seeking mental health services and those offering the services. You know I am already on that boat with my FREE mental health SMS line 22214 (service no longer available) but yes we need a handful more psychiatrists, maybe Safaricom Foundation should do a scholarship for the same, yes, yes?

By the time we were leaving Mathari Hospital, all required documents in our hands…I felt excited about the strides being made to make mental health sexy, my excitement was however short lived when I thought about the counties, Mathari Hospital is working to shape itself as a National Referral Hospital, are counties aware of their responsibilities as far as mental health service provision is concerned? (You know i made another mental note about this too)

PS; After the assessment, the doctor prescribed Quetipine which the hospital is offering for free (and it is not expired), how cool is that? (the fact that it is free ok and also that it is not expired)

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  1. I practiced at Mathari for some time and my experience there changed my whole perspective of the know what people know(think they know) and say about 'Mathare' out there... people even fear to enroll for rehab at the place coz of the stigma the place beholds. Renovation of the infrastructure could make the place much better. There is no health without mental health!