In answer to a parliamentary question from the DA, the Department of Health has revealed that more than 6.5 million people in South Africa needs professional mental health intervention, of which almost 1.3 million “need care for severe psychiatric conditions”. However, the country only has 19 752 beds in public and private mental health care facilities available. This means that only 0.3% of people with mental health issues are able to receive help – 332 patients for every bed available.
The country also has a massive shortage of psychologists and psychiatrists in the public health sector. While the Western Cape has only one vacancy for a psychologist and a psychiatrist/population ratio of 1:71 856, other provinces are really struggling.
There are only a total of 451 psychologists within the public sector with 187 vacancies;
The Eastern Cape vacancy rate is 83.33%;
The Limpopo vacancy rate is 82.86%;
The Mpumalanga vacancy rate 80%;
The Eastern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga and Northern Cape only employ two, four, three, and two psychiatrists respectively. This puts the Eastern Cape ratio at a staggering 1:3 338 295 and Mpumalanga at 1:1 581 194.
South Africans deserve better care from the Department of Health. The DA will submit follow-up parliamentary questions regarding the incredible vacancy rate. We will also request the Department’s urgent appearance before the parliamentary portfolio committee on health regarding their plans for intervention.
It is hardly surprising that South Africa is facing a mental health crisis, with the country’s economy in tatters, unemployment lines growing daily, and severe systemic failures in almost all public sectors and State-owned enterprises. Government needs to ensure that all South Africans have the help they need when they need it.