Mental health pilot scheme in Kowloon East hospitals will cut waiting times for depression, anxiety or insomnia sufferers

The programme is designed to address a shortage of psychiatry specialists, as the district has seen the number of mental health ­patients expand by 60 per cent, to 97,497, in the past 10 years.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2016, 7:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 03 August, 2016, 10:26pm

A pilot scheme has been launched in public hospitals in Kowloon East that aims to reduce waiting times for some 1,500 mental health patients, who in the past had to wait almost two years to be seen by doctors.

The programme is designed to address a shortage of psychiatry specialists, as the district has seen the number of mental health ­patients expand by 60 per cent, to 97,497, in the past 10 years.

Of those, around 1,800 new patients who suffer from “non-urgent” conditions such as ­depression, anxiety or insomnia, have had to wait an average of 90 weeks for a medical consultation.

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The pilot scheme will target these non-urgent cases identified by nurses who will then refer them to the mental health clinic, where the patient will now be seen by a nurse, a doctor, and an occupational therapist at the same time – without the patient needing to wait to see each in separate ­sessions.

“We hope that the programme can shorten the waiting time for these new non-urgent cases by around 20 per cent,” said Dr Pang Pui-fai, psychiatry consultant at United Christian Hospital.

He said the programme, which will last until March, will be able to help those patients who show symptoms of mild psychiatric problems.

Without the new arrangement, Pang said some patients may see their mental health ­conditions deteriorate during their long wait for treatment.

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“Some patients might have healed during the wait, while some would decide to seek treatment from private clinics. But some would brought medicines from pharmacies to treat themselves – this would be a little bit risky,” Pang said.

“There were cases in which the patients went from mild mental illness to drug addition. We hope the programme will lower such risk by shortening the waiting time for them.”

One patient, who preferred to be known as Miss Chan, who ­suffers from mild depression and anxiety, said she would have to wait until May for a medical ­consultation in United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong without the scheme. But now the clinic has arranged two sessions for her.

“If I have to wait for so long, I would suffer,” Chan said.

Patients suffering from more serious conditions, such as schizophrenia, are offered treatment in two to eight weeks at present, Pang said.