Ghana Parliament finally passes Mental Health Bill after 8-years delay
After years of waiting and agitation by civil society groups the Mental Health Bill was unexpectedly passed by Parliament Friday, amidst wild applause by psychiatric doctors and nurses who had thronged the House to listen to proceedings.
Years of waiting in anxiety by the doctors and nurses suddenly turned to joy as they could not believe that their dream could come through so suddenly.
The passage of the bill was unexpected, since after the completion of the consideration stage to deal with the numerous amendments the few MPs in the chamber as well as the psychiatric doctors and nurses who were waiting in the public gallery, thought that the bill would be passed next week.
One could therefore not blame the doctors and nurses when they discarded parliamentary norms and practice and clapped unceasingly when the Second Deputy Speaker, Professor Michael Quaye pronounced the bill passed.
Earlier when everybody thought the Majority Leader, Cletus Avoka was going to move the motion for the adjournment of the House, he rather informed the Second Deputy Speaker that the House had to take the bill through the third reading.
The Deputy Minister of Health, Mr Rojo Mettle-Nunoo, thereafter moved the motion for the third reading, which was seconded by Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Health, Mr Wisdom Gidisu.
The Chief Psychiatrist of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Akwasi Osei, who could not hide his joy told the Daily Graphic afterwards that the bill had been introduced in Parliament in 2004 and it had been the expectation of the GHS that it would be passed by 2006.
“I don’t know how to express my joy. Eight years of anxiety, apprehension and patience – that is how I can describe my feeling now. If we know that the bill would be passed today, we would have come here with buses full of people and thereafter paraded through the streets of Accra to exhibit our joy and appreciation”, he said, adding that “we have to pop champagne as a result of this good news”.
Dr Osei said there would also be joy at the World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, the Yale University in the US, India, Australia and Canada that had all supported the GHS one way or another towards the passage of the bill.
He said it was his expectation that the President would assent to the bill to make it a law soon to enable the Ministry of Health to submit the necessary Legislative Instruments (LIs) to Parliament to ensure the implementation of the law.
“It is my expectation that five years from now there will be no mad persons roaming the streets of the country, since they will be effectively treated and integrated into society” Dr Osei said.
Source: Daily Graphic