As psychiatric patients face increasing difficulties getting treatment due to concerns about the hospital infections of the new coronavirus, Gyeonggi Province said it would operate an around-the-clock facility to test COVID-19 for the mentally ill.
Yim Seung-gwan, co-head of the Gyeonggi Province COVID-19 Emergency Response Team, said in a briefing Monday that the spread of the virus caused a shortage of hospital beds and worries over hospital infections, forcing mental health institutions to shun receiving new patients.
“If a suspected patient has a mental illness, it is difficult to learn the patient’s moving lines through interviews. So, it is necessary to establish a screening facility for them,” Yim said.
The provincial administration decided to use the negative pressure room at the Gyeonggi Provincial Medical Center Suwon Hospital as the isolated examination facility for urgent psychiatric patients, and dispatch 20 medical workers from Gyeonggi Provincial Mental Hospital in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province.
If a mentally ill person needs inpatient treatment in situations in which it is difficult to identify symptoms and whether the person was exposed to COVID-19, the Suwon hospital will run the COVID-19 test. If the result comes negative, the patient will be moved to a psychiatric ward at a mental institution in Gyeonggi Province. If the test turns positive, physicians will work with the National Mental Health Center to provide COVID-19 treatment.
Yim said the new establishment would block an influx of the infectious disease into a mental institution and promote the medical delivery system for urgent psychiatric patients in Gyeonggi Province.
“It is also meaningful in terms of social integration because the new facility means that some of the public medical resources are allocated to the psychosocially marginalized so that they can receive timely tests and treatments,” he added.
The provincial officials said when Gyeonggi Provincial Mental Hospital reopens after a pilot operation in late April, the test facility and the hospital would create synergic effects in treating urgent psychiatric patients.