Five of the National and University Hospital’s eight psychiatric wards have received failing grades in the hospital’s safety assessment, RÚV reports. María Einisdóttir, the hospital’s Chief Executive of Mental Health Services says that improvements sorely need to be made in many of the facilities, for instance to the bathrooms, window ledges and frames, curtains, and more.
Spokespeople for the hospital knew that conditions were not good, but the situation has now been shown to be far worse than expected. The safety audit was designed and conducted by the hospital itself, explained María in a radio interview on Thursday, as was the grading system.
The hospital has concluded that it needs to examine a variety of different ways in which it can ensure the wellbeing and safety of its psychiatric patients. María says that this broader topic can be divided into three subcategories. “We need to have safe accommodations in terms of suicide prevention—that’s number one,” she explained. “Secondly, we need to take account the prevention of infections, and last, but not least, the environment needs to be one that encourages recovery. Some wards are in great disrepair and for people who are extremely depressed and having thoughts about being worthless and that their families would be better off without them, walking into an environment that does not encourage recovery is terrible. The furniture is worn out, the floor rugs are all ripped up, the walls are white, and so on and so forth,” says María.
María says that inexpensive renovations have been done, such as repairing curtain valances, but more costly renovations, such as repairing the bathrooms have yet to be undertaken. She is urging for these updates to be prioritized but notes that this is a very complicated situation. “We want to be proud of our health care system and mental health system and our facilities need to be safe and reliable and encourage recovery. The last two Ministers of Health have made mental health issues a priority—this has led to there being a lot more conversations with the ministry than we’ve been accustomed to.” María continued that the hospital has done a great deal of policy work since 2017 and worked closely with Minister of Health Svandís Svavarsdóttir, who seems very well informed about mental health issues. However, she says, funding for the psychiatric ward improvements is still very much needed.