Better follow-up services on mental patients

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 May, 2010, 12:00am

Social welfare and health officials have pledged to improve follow-up services for discharged mental patients in the wake of a chopping attack involving one such patient last week.

A 42-year-old man with a history of mental illness allegedly chopped five people in Kwai Shing East Estate on Saturday. Two people died and three were seriously injured.

The man has been arrested, but residents of the estate are worried about similar attacks by other mental patients in future.

Currently, mental patients go home after receiving psychiatric treatment in hospital. They are asked to go to clinics for follow-up consultations, but they do not always do so. Patients may also refuse home visits. This makes it hard for social workers and doctors to monitor how well patients are recovering.

Cecilia Yuen, assistant director of the Social Welfare Department, told RTHK on Tuesday the department would enhance communication with the Housing Department and with health authorities so that estate officers will be alert to potentially violent cases earlier.

The Housing Department manages public housing estates.

Yuen said estate officers would be asked to call the Social Welfare Department when they see signs of mental disorder behaviour in their estates.

The department's family services centre would then send workers to help.

Margaret Tay, chief manager for integrated care programmes at the Hospital Authority, said case managers would follow up on the progress of discharged patients. The managers would receive special training.

Tay said health workers would look at the patients' situation to decide how best to keep in touch with them because some patients might not welcome home visits.

'If home visits are not possible, we will connect with patients on the phone,' she said.