Case managers to supervise mental patients after discharge

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 November, 2009, 12:00am

The Hospital Authority plans to recruit 80 case managers from nurses, social workers and professional therapists to take care of about 5,000 mental patients discharged from hospitals.

The trial programme is to be launched in Kwai Tsing, Yuen Long and Kwun Tong in April next year, with the aim of improving the patients' recovery in the community.

It will be extended to other districts if it works well.

Margaret Tay, chief manager for integrated care programmes at the Hospital Authority, said the programme represented a change in the authority's approach to helping mental patients after release.

'In the past, a patient, in case of any problem, may have needed repeated consultations with nurses, therapists and social workers, which is a kind of waste of resources,' Tay said. 'But with the case management model, we will offer one-to-one assistance by judging each patient's need and the risks [involved].'

For example, she said, a mental patient who also suffered from hypertension would be assigned a nurse, while a depressed single mother with several children would have a social worker to help her. All case managers will be given relevant training. Guidance will also be provided by experienced community psychiatric services consultants.

Jolene Mui Hang-chun, a nurse consultant in community psychiatric services at Castle Peak Hospital in Tuen Mun, said the authority would also team up with 'community partners', such as the police and social groups, to monitor the patients. 'Our ultimate goal is to enable the patients to manage their own emotions.'

Public concern over how discharged patients are cared for has been growing after several fatal attacks by people that were mentally ill or suspected of being mentally ill.

The authority plans to set up two triage clinics in central Kowloon and Hong Kong Island West to shorten the waiting time for non-urgent mental patients to see doctors. This will take the total number of such clinics to seven. Tay said she expected the seven clinics would treat 7,000 patients in 2010-2011.