Dozens of patients suffering from mental disorders have been sent home from Buhodle Mental Hospital because their families in the drought-hit region of northern Somalia failed to pay the medical bills.
Jama Ahmed Salad took his brother and his nephew to the hospital after they became ill. They were diagnosed with a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by their experiences during the severe drought that killed almost all their livestock.
Both patients underwent treatment with medication for five months, when they were abruptly taken off the drugs because the bill was unpaid.
“We cannot manage to pay the monthly charges,” Jama said. “I used to depend on the remaining few livestock but now we have no money, so we have been forced to bring them home. We are concerned that one boy is violent, and he may harm others. He already broke the chains to meant strict his movement.”
It is common for people suffering signs of mental disorder to be kept chained up at home in Somalia unless they can get treatment at an institution. Such hospitals also use restraints such as chains.
According to the hospital records, 37 patients out of the 58 who are admitted have been taken off their medication and sent home since June. Their families had run up a bill for the hospital charges of 150 dollars per month.
Jama’s family used to have a large herd of 350 livestock including goats and 30 camels before the severe drought hit their area in 2016.
“I sold 15 goats and a camel to settle the medical charges. For the last three months we spent 900 dollars to treat them,” Jama said.
Abdisalam Farah Ismail sonAbdifatah, 22, is also suffering from a mental disorder. Abdisalam took his son to the hospital four months ago after managing to raise some money to pay for his treatment.
However, Abdifatah has now been sent home by the hospital after his father was unable to pay for the continuing course of treatment.
“I am now worried that my son’s condition could worsen due to lack of medical attention,” Abdisalam said.
The director of the hospital, Dr. Guleid Mohamed Noah, told Radio Ergo that the hospital needed the fees paid by the relatives of the patients in order to function.
“We do not get any support from outside, so the hospital relies on what we get from families of the patients. This means the hospital cannot financially support these patients,” Dr. Guleid said.