Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen (L) and Eli Alalouf.
(photo credit: AVI HAYOUN)
The Health Ministry estimates that in the past year, some 4,000 psychiatric patients underwent “tying” to restrict their movements in mental institutions.
In a noisy session of the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee on Monday that was dedicated to isolating and restraining patients, ministry director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov said staffers do their best with the means at their disposal.
“We are in the midst of change, and the situation today is better than it was not very long ago. If we demonize or dehumanize the staff of psychiatric hospitals, this progress and change will be halted.”
He added that staff will be bolstered in the afternoons and a system established to alert the authorities when a patient has been tied or isolated for too long.
Committee chairman Kulanu MK Eli Alalouf said that he intends to hold additional discussions on the issue every three months and examine each of the psychiatric institutions separately. “The Health Ministry must establish a blueprint to cope in the long term with problems in psychiatric hospitals,” Alalouf said.
“Many caregivers are devoted to their patients, but they burn out with the years, and this can result in harm to patients. We must pay attention to parents and families. They must know what is happening to their dear ones and why they are isolated.”
He also criticized the ministry “for failing to initiate investigation of this problem.”
The parents of boy named “Daniel” who is hospitalized in the Shaar Menashe hospital maintained “He doesn’t get treatment; he gets punished. Doctors threaten him and he is put under pressure. He is not given discussions with a psychologist. He is forbidden to hear music, and we have no ability to follow what is happening to him.”
But Shaar Menashe director Dr. Alex Grinspoon said that while Daniel needed tying when he arrived because he was wild, his condition improved and he was put into isolation and then gradually was allowed to go to the institution’s garden and lobby.”
The sister of “Noa” who was bound in a psychiatric hospital said the demonization “is of the patients [not of the staff]. Patient’s four limbs are found, and they wear diapers, stare at the ceiling for days at a time without TV or music. The family are allowed to visit just 15 minutes a day and are not allowed to bring him even chocolate. When transferred to another hospital, she was treated differently and was not bound.”
Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen called on Bar Siman Tov to add at least 10 job slots so “there will be no alibi for staff members to come and justify forbidden behavior due to a manpower shortage.”
Various MKs and volunteer groups such as Bizchut have been lobbying against binding psychiatric patients and alleged cruel treatment in psychiatric institutions.