Patient and social work factors related to successful placement of long-term psychiatric in-patients from a specialist psychiatric hospital in South Africa

22 Aug 2011

OBJECTIVE: The slow discharge of long-term psychiatry patients from Weskoppies Hospital into the community has not matched the national and international drive towards deinstitutionalisation. This article investigates patient and social work factors related to successful community placement, in the context of limited community care facilities. METHOD: Thirty-six long-term patients who were successfully placed outside of the hospital during a seven month period were compared to 235 unplaced long-term patients in terms of demographic and clinical variables. Social work services were analysed in terms of which patients received the most interventions, and the most common type of interventions. RESULTS: The most significant patient factors associated with successful placement were: female patients; medium-to-high level of functioning; having involved relatives living far away; a low frequency of behavioural problems (especially of cannabis abuse, verbal or physical aggression, uncontrolled sexual activity), and agitation or restlessness. These patient factors were mirrored in the social work services rendered to the long-term patients during the study period: The recipients were mostly female, in open wards (higher-functioning); and the social services utilised were mostly related to planning for placement and patient support. CONCLUSION: The lack of community care facilities in the Pretoria area that are able to care for the more difficult long-term psychiatry patients, limits successful placement and increases the burden of hospital based social workers. The problem cannot be resolved at a hospital level and needs to be addressed in the context of provincial and national health departments.