The Czech Republic’s health minister has outlined a plan to reform the country’s long-neglected psychiatric care. The emphasis should be shifted from large psychiatric institutions to a network of mental health centres that would serve patients locally. Up to a third of psychiatric patients could be transferred to the centres by 2030.
Psychiatric care has long been one of the most neglected sectors in the Czech Republic’s health care system, being underfinanced and relying heavily on large psychiatric institutions. Under the National Action Plan for Mental Health Care put forward by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the emphasis should gradually shift towards external care.
Dana Chrtková from the National Institute of Mental Health outlines the biggest problems psychiatric patients face:
“The biggest problem is social stigmatization as well as self-stigmatisation. The latter is a process in which you internalise the public stigma and apply it to yourself. People see themselves as useless, they have no self-esteem and feel they have no place in the society.”
The shift towards smaller, community centres should prevent psychiatric hospitals from overflowing, bust most of all, it should enable more psychiatric patients to function in society. According to Health Minister Adam Vojtěch, some 300 people should be transferred to the specially created mental health centres by the end of the year. By 2030, it could by around one third of all psychiatric patients.
“We want patients who are able to function at home to get the chance to do so and to be part of the society as much as possible. These people don’t require health care alone. They also need social security and affordable accommodation.”
Securing affordable accommodation for psychiatric patients is primarily a task for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs. Its head Jana Maláčová says they also want to enable as many patients as possible to be active members of the society:
“If possible, we want to help these people to find work that would be fulfilling and make them feel useful. Apart from de-institutionalisation and affordable accommodation, we want to focus on the system of benefits.
“For example, we would like to speed up the process of approving care allowances and other financial benefits.”
The reform also seeks to reduce the number of occupied beds in institutions and improve conditions in hospitals such as reducing the use of restrictive methods, such as caged beds. Health minister Adam Vojtěch again:
“Every psychiatric hospital should have its quality manager in the future. We want to gradually teach employees to use different techniques and alternative methods to calm down patients and get them to cooperate.”
The first phase of the country’s mental health care reform is expected to cost some three billion crowns, which will be paid for by EU funds. As of next year, the costs will be covered by health insurance companies, which estimate the costs at 350 million crowns a year.