Authorities consider database of mental patients' violent acts as part of wider review

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 June, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 June, 2009, 12:00am

The government and police are considering establishing a database of violent acts committed by psychiatric patients as a way to improve rehabilitation support services for them.

During the meeting yesterday of the Legislative Council's welfare panel, lawmakers criticised the government for failing to offer sufficient resources to help mental patients.

Democrat legislator Wong Sing-chi asked what follow-up services were provided by the government to psychiatric patients who had been discharged from hospital.

'Many mental patients and their family members told me that social workers were not notified when they left hospital and there were no assessments of patients when they returned to the community.

'Life in the community is already very stressful for ordinary people, let alone mental patients,' he told the panel, convened to consider issues arising from the chopping to death of a three-year-old boy in Sham Shui Po at the hands of a man diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Eliza Lee Man-ching, deputy secretary for labour and welfare, did not answer Mr Wong directly but said: 'We are working with police to study the possibility of setting up a database to collect data on violent crimes committed by mental patients.'

Two weeks ago, the Food and Health Bureau admitted that the Hospital Authority had no statistics on psychiatric patients who had committed suicide or killed or injured people and said the authority was considering the establishment of a database.

The number of such patients has risen by 23 per cent in the past five years to 154,625. But the number in hospital dropped by 5.8 per cent over this period to 13,910.

Gloria Lo Kit-wai, principal assistant secretary for food and health, said the government would work out details of a database later, paying special attention to privacy.

Unionist legislator Wong Kwok-hing said there were insufficient resources for psychiatric patient rehabilitation services. 'Is there enough manpower to follow up on mental patients who are discharged from hospitals?' he asked. 'Is the frequency of visits to them enough?'

In response, Ms Lee said a multidisciplinary panel, including medical and welfare experts, decided whether or not a patient should be allowed to leave hospital. More staff had been hired to follow up on these patients.

But she acknowledged that rehabilitation services were split between the Hospital Authority, Department of Health and the Social Welfare Department. 'There may be a need to integrate these services to improve services,' Ms Lee said.

Patient rights campaigner Tim Pang Hung-cheong, of the Society for Community Organisation, who led about 20 mental patients and family members in a protest yesterday, said the government should offer more help.

'The working relationship between the various government departments responsible for patient rehabilitation services is very loose,' he said. 'There is no mental health policy and no organisation to ensure a smooth operation of services.'