Latvia's mental health situation is fourth worst in EU
Last year, 386 people killed themselves in Latvia, with about 400 in the years prior. This is the data by which the mental health situation is assessed.
Even though suicides are becoming less prevalent, people in Latvia kill themselves almost twice as often as in other countries, and all this despite Latvia having more psychiatric beds than the EU average.
"Beds are necessary, but [as for the] rest - there are many aspects that are much more important than just beds," said professor Māris Taube, head of the Veldre ambulatory care facility.
State backs obligations of 11 hospitals for €200m
Six mental institutions for inpatients were among the 11 hospitals, the obligations of which the state backed with €200m ten years ago.
While in the time following most of the mental institutions have developed care for inpatients, the Rīga Psychiatry and Narcology Center has created day care centers and two ambulatory care facilities.
"About 950 new patients arrive each year. It is much more than at [the Rīga Psychiatry and Narcology Hospital] on Tvaika st. This place seems safer to them. And that's the goal. If a person is depressed, he comes to a center and says, yes, it's good here, and he gets help. And that's how persons get help instead of killing themselves," said Taube.
Just a few years after the large investments into hospitals, World Bank analysis over mental healthcare in Latvia says that there are too many mental institutions in Latvia, and the number of psychiatric beds should be halvened to about 1,000 from the current 2,000.
World Bank: Too many mental institutions in Latvia
World Bank experts have proposed closing the Ģintermuiža and Aknīste mental hospitals, as well as the Ainaži children's mental hospital.
"We won't go into detail at the moment and I wouldn't want to say that we'll be closing any [of the institutions] at the moment. At any rate, moving and changing stationary care facilities is a long term process," said Kārlis Ketners, State Secretary at the Health Ministry.
The Ģintermuiža hospital at Jelgava received a €12m loan backed by the state. The hospital has 365 beds, all of which are full. While the World Bank suggests moving acute patients to Rīga.
Head of the hospital Uldis Čāčus says that the suggestions don't take Latvia's specific situation into account. According to him, psychiatric beds are thought to be used only for acute cases in the rest of the world, while patients sometimes stay for prolonged periods of time in Latvian hospitals. There are about 100 of such long-term patients at Ģintermuiža, with some staying since the 90s.
The World Bank suggests considering special communes or long-term care facilities for mental patients. However in order to do that the range of state-paid healthcare in ambulatory should be increased, along with strengthening cooperation with municipalities.
The Health Ministry admits that the network of mental hospitals is too large in Latvia. The Health Ministry doesn't say whether any of the three named hospitals will be closed, however a possible scenario envisions adding psychiatric wards to regional hospitals.