Doctors are leaving work, and there are more children and adolescents in psychiatric wards than ever – this is the result of the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning. The system is crumbling and the youngest suffer. It is true that 325 community psychological and psychotherapeutic care centers for children and adolescents have been established, which are to offer help close to their place of residence. However, there is still a lot to do. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.
The timetable helped him find out what day of the week it was. Remote learning cut 12-year-old Antek from his colleagues, and the so far specific frames of the day were very blurred. – All day only with a cat, in pajamas, breakfast in the third lesson. I was sitting on the computer all the time, even during lessons I happened to sit on YouTube, I muted my lessons – admits Antek.
The boy had previously received psychiatric treatment for concentration disorders and oppositional-defiant disorders. The pandemic resulted in depression and the need for drug treatment. – He showed great maturity, because he came at some point, that he is not coping, that he does not know what is happening to him, that he has a problem and that we should probably contact the doctor – says the boy’s mother.
Child psychiatrists see how the pandemic has weakened the mental resilience of children. October in hospitals and psychiatric clinics has always been tough – although it’s hard to believe – now it’s even worse. – This is 30 percent more patients hospitalized in inpatient wards. When it comes to outpatient clinics, there are 50 percent more reports of patients with their families – says Dr. Aleksandra Lewandowska, head of the psychiatric ward for children at the Babinski Hospital in Łódź.
The head of the psychiatric ward for children in Józefów, Dr. Lidia Popek, explains that the child goes to a psychiatric hospital when the child makes an unsuccessful suicide attempt. – The second situation is auto-aggressive and aggressive behavior – he adds.
Overloaded child psychiatry wards
However, even those children in the most serious states, in need of urgent help, can barely fit into the wards. – Currently, there are 44 patients on 22 beds in the ward. We still have an emergency room today, so I suppose that the number of children requiring hospitalization will increase even more by tomorrow morning, admits Dr. Lidia Popek.
Staff offices are being turned into sick rooms – five children in three-person rooms, four in two-person rooms. When the observation part is full, with patients who cannot be left out of sight, other solutions must be found. – It is often safer when the bed is next to the nursing station than in a multi-person room with monitoring – says Dr. Aleksandra Lewandowska.
Marta Szarejko, author of the book “Acute Conditions. How Psychiatrists Heal Our Children”, had 15 interviews with psychiatrists and psychologists from all over Poland in order to show the fullest possible picture. – What I remember the most is the conversation from Łańcut with the head of the children’s department. She said that when she is no longer able to move, she always imagines that there is the last mattress on the doctor’s office for the child and that she does not want to enlarge her cemetery, so she will always take every child – she recalls.
There is a shortage of doctors in children’s psychiatry departments
The announced major reform of child psychiatry – although it has already started – is slow. It is true that 325 community psychological and psychotherapeutic care centers for children and adolescents have been established, which are to offer help close to their place of residence. However, there is still a lot to do.
– It is necessary to increase the valuation of services provided in hospital departments – says Dr. Barbara Remeberk, national consultant in the field of child and adolescent psychiatry. – Most of the 24/7 branches have debts of 30 percent of the turnover – he points out. In her opinion, “in order to be able to take a step forward” we need to raise the valuation of benefits by 50 percent.
In the ward headed by Dr. Remberk, doctors still give notices. – Of the six doctors, five are determined. Some of them have already given their notice, and the part with a shorter notice period has simply informed the management board that they intend to make such a decision, says Dr. Barbara Remberk.
In response to journalists’ questions, the Ministry of Health assures that the Agency for Health Technology Assessment and Tariffs has been commissioned to evaluate new psychiatric services – this should be ready in November.
Main photo source: TVN24