CAIRO: Egypt s cabinet is discussing a new mental health law that would allow patients suffering from mental and psychological ailments to receive treatment at specialized departments in public hospitals rather than the overloaded and socially-stigmatized mental hospitals.
After getting the green light from cabinet, the law would then be discussed in the People’s Assembly (PA). The discussions are set to change the current law 41 for year 1944.
According to the draft law, cities around Egypt would boast a national center for psychological health, where judges and government officials would supervise the clinics and ensure that patients receive all their legal rights.
According to Dr Farid Ismail, member of the parliament’s Health Committee, the change in law 41 will solve several issues for mental patients, “as most mental hospitals are not qualified enough to treat mental illnesses that need a tremendous amount of services and are extremely expensive to treat.
“We already have a very small number of mental hospitals compared to public ones, while the number of mental patients is increasing every day, Dr Ismail told Daily News Egypt.
In addition, the Ministry of Health’s financial resources will not allow it to build more mental hospitals as the total budget of the ministry is around LE 9 billion, and 65 percent of its budget goes to salaries, he explained.
The public hospitals, he continued, would be able, both financially and professionally, to offer a better service to the mental patients than mental hospitals.
This draft law touches upon concerns raised by another draft law, still under discussion at the PA. The draft, which proposes changes to law 141, aims at changing the perception of mental patients by integrating them in society. It also calls for renovating the current rundown mental hospitals.
Dr Mohamed Rakha, member of the Doctors Without Rights, told Daily News Egypt that the changes to law 41 have nothing to do with the amendments to law 141 that the Doctors’ Syndicate has worked on along with the Ministry of Health, and which was presented to the PA a year ago.
Nonetheless, the issue of a better perception of mental patients is a common theme between the two laws.
Dr Ismail explained that one of the anticipated obstacles to the implementation of the amendments to law 41 is the reaction of the other patients at public hospitals.
He said some might have reservations about being treated at the same hospital as patients suffering from mental and psychological ailments, who are usually perceived as “mad people.
However, Dr Ismail continued, “by time people’s perception of mental patients will change. It’s the role of the Ministry of Health and the medical authorities in the country to change public perception of mental illnesses in Egypt.
The draft law is expected to be discussed when Parliament resumes its sessions in November following the annual recess, according to Dr Hamdy Hassan, member of the PA’s Health Committee.
Hassan, who is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, told Daily News Egypt that the new law “will be approved by the PA as any law that is presented by the government gets approved by the PA, whose majority of seats are occupied by the ruling party [the National Democratic Party (NDP)] and not by the will of the people.