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“The number of child psychiatrists in Ukraine is decreasing,” experts say

UHHRU’s analytical report “The Rights of the Child and Mental Health. Observance of the Children’s Rights in Inpatient Healthcare and Social Protection Institutions” was presented in Kyiv. Experts say that over the past three years, the number of child psychiatrists has gone down from five hundred to two.

Our country currently lacks a clear picture regarding mental disorders. There is a shortage of specialists in psychiatry, in particular, the number of child psychiatrists has decreased. There is also the issue of inadequate observance of the rights of patients in specialized establishments. In some institutions, conditions are close to torture. This was reported by human rights activists and experts during a press conference at the Glavcom press center, where the analytical report “Observance of the Rights of Children with Mental and Intellectual Disorders in Inpatient Institutions of Healthcare and Social Protection” was presented.

According to experts and human rights activists, the available statistics on mental disorders is incomplete. “A significant number of mental disorders in our country are never recorded. Many parents of children suffering from mental disorders tend to avoid stigmatizing services provided by the ineffective specialized psychiatric care for children. Ukraine has no epidemiological data on the spread of depression among children, their dependence on psychoactive substances, nutrition-related behavioral disorders (bulimia and anorexia), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or post-traumatic stress disorders,” said Yevheniya Pavlova, President of the all-Ukrainian organization Foundation for the Protection of Children’s Rights.

The shortage of personnel in the mental health sector remains a serious issue. In 2015, the staffing of psychiatrists was 78.05%, with 59.20% for child psychiatrists. The shortage is most serious in rural areas, in district level hospitals. Over the past three years, the number of child psychiatrists has gone down from five hundred to two. Unfortunately, and this is confirmed by professionals, psychiatric care for children mostly consists of drug treatment. The rehabilitation component is either absent altogether or its role is negligent. An exception to this are programs implemented by non-governmental organizations.

Bohdan Moysa, human rights defender and expert of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Bohdan Moysa, human rights defender and expert of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

“We visited a considerable number of institutions. Thus, in Zaporizhia and Dnipro, premises are not suitable for housing people with special needs. The rooms are on the second floor, but the lifts can carry only one person at a time, while there can be up to 20 people in a facility. In case of emergency, there is a real threat to human life,” said Bohdan Moysa, human rights defender and expert of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. He also noted that the workload for social workers is too great. After all, regulations require every social worker to work with 8-12 children, while the health of these children may vary.

Ruslan Imerelli, President of the All-Ukrainian Public Organization of Persons with Disabilities – Users of Psychiatric Aid “User”, observed that medical staff are often ignorant as to the rights of their patients. Moreover, no one works with the parents. He also stresses that it is unacceptable to merge inpatient institutions. “For instance, a psychoneurological institution has been merged with a geriatric one in Vinnytsia Oblast. This is legal nonsense! The deinstitutionalization program aims to reduce by 25% the number of beds in psychoneurological institutions. They are supposed to be opened in institutions specializing in treating somatic symptom disorders. I vehemently oppose this initiative,” said Mr. Imerelli.

Text by Glavcom

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