The Ministry of Health (MoH) on September 8, 2023, announced the opening of the Kigali Referral Mental Health Centre that was slated for the same month. This was in response to concerns about insufficiencies in mental health services highlighted in the Auditor General’s performance report for 2018-2022.
The now operational mental health facility situated in Kinyinya Sector, Gasabo District adds to the existing services provided at Ndera-Neuropsychiatric Teaching Hospital, known as Caraes Ndera Hospital. It centres on outpatient services but also accommodates 32 inpatients.
The New Times lists a few things to know about Kigali Referral Mental Health Centre:
The centre is a specialised referral hub for mental healthcare, with improved medical technology, a wide range of specific services, and a dedicated team of skilled healthcare professionals. Some of its facilities are dedicated to research activities and the education of healthcare providers.
The hospital houses 32 in-patients for up to seven days, with the possibility of extension, and treats an unlimited number of out-patients every day.
Patients are from various health centres and can use community-based health insurance (Mutuelle de Santé) and other insurance options.
The childcare room is a special place where doctors observe how babies and very young children are doing, according to the director of the centre, Dynamo Ndacyayisenga.
“We use toys like rattles, soft dolls, and books to see how they react. Some babies might play with the toys, some might avoid them, and others may not be interested.”
This helps doctors figure out if a baby is feeling anxious or has a neural disorder like autism.
This room is specifically designed to enhance an individual’s physical, cognitive, sensory, psychological, and social skills during their hospital stay through meaningful and purposeful activities, contributing to increased independence and participation in daily life activities.
Psychological and psychiatric consultation blocks
In the psychological consultation block, there are dedicated rooms for psychological and psychiatric consultations. The psychological consultation room is a standard setting resembling a home’s sitting room. In this room, patients and doctors have enough time for discussions, fostering a comfortable environment to address concerns and find solutions.
On the other hand, the psychiatric consultation room serves a distinct purpose, catering to the specific needs of individuals requiring psychiatric support.
Electroencephalogram (EEG) room
This is an emergency room with electroencephalogram (EEG) equipment, a specialised machine used for the assessment of various neurological conditions including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, other dementias, strokes, migraines, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, neurological infections, brain tumours, traumatic nervous system conditions, such as head injuries, and disorders related to malnutrition.
“The machine aids in gauging the severity of the condition and here is how it operates; when the lamp is activated, it stimulates the brain, allowing the doctor to discern the patient’s ailment based on the observed responses. Additionally, a computer is present to record and store the results obtained during the consultation,” Ndacyayisenga said.
Electrodes are also used in the process, placed on the patient’s head to facilitate the neurological examination.
The laboratory has some important rooms; one is for checking patients with powerful microscopes that can see tiny things, like cells. There are special machines (dermatology machines) for the skin, too, which can help with scars, tattoos, and moles.
Another machine called an autoclave, uses steam to kill harmful stuff like bacteria and viruses on tools. There’s also a Sysmex machine for analysing blood quickly, especially for people who struggle with drug or alcohol abuse.
Ndacyayisenga said the facility offers diverse mental health services, encompassing psychological care for the affected.
“It will conduct assessments by psychiatric, psychologist, and specialised neurologists, along with addictologists, and administer various exams. The facility aims to provide medicine, treatment, clinical trials, and research for mental health,” explained Ndacyayisenga.
He added: “As a referral centre, it offers mentorship, education to healthcare providers, in-service, and out-service, planning to expand operations in universities.”
Notably, the hospital aims to address mental health stigma by emphasising the quality of its services, positioning the centre as a supportive environment akin to home, rather than a mere treatment facility.
“Collaborating with entities like Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) and Mutuelle de Santé, along with community-based organisations, we are committed to improving awareness and dispelling misconceptions about the curability of mental health issues,” he said.
He added: “Through ongoing community education and outreach programmes, we seek to ensure individuals facing mental health challenges feel encouraged to get help and understand that effective treatment is available.”
Ndacyayisenga calls for the utilisation of the facility, emphasising its role in serving the Rwandan community and combating the stigma associated with mental health.