It’s been reported that nearly 40 patients of the Mathari Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya have escaped after a protest regarding the effectiveness of their medication. The New York Times reports that Mathari is the country’s only public psychiatric facility. (Kenya is a country of 40 million people.) BBC Africa reports it is the biggest psychiatric hospital in the country, which would indicate the presence of other facilities. CNN, in its 2011 documentary “Locked Up and Forgotten,” targeted it simply as the worst–a difficult judgment to dispute, even given CNN’s predilection for sensationalism. Yet according to the International Journal of Mental Health Systems (IJMHS) and World Psychiatry, there are four major national hospitals in Kenya that provide care for patients with mental illness, along with several provincial general hospitals (and health centers) also running inpatient units throughout the country. The system is clearly troubled and largely ineffective, but it’s not because there is one hospital for the entire nation. In addition to Mathari, the IJMHS cites the University of Nairobi, Gilgil Hospital and Moi University as running national scale operations.
A big problem that’s receiving little attention is that Kenya relies almost solely on its own training program for psychiatrists at the University of Nairobi, which produces only around six new fully accredited psychiatrists per year. (And some of these are enticed by other nations to emigrate, making the number even more precarious.) In 2013, the total number of psychiatrists in Kenya was reported at 80. Seven psychiatrists work at Mathari Hosptial, which also serves as a diabetic clinic, a dental clinic, a TB clinic, a maternal and child health clinic, and a mortuary. When economists and planners warn about making sure a society fulfills its needs in human resources, or human capital, this is what they mean.