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Wednesday, August 3, 2016, 20:40

Scheme speeds up treatment for non-urgent mental illness

By chinadailyasia.com

HONG KONG - Hospitals in Kowloon East Cluster under the Hospital Authority have launched a pilot program aimed at shortening the waiting time for new cases of mental illnesses by 20 percent, by diverting 1,500 non-urgent patients to a designated clinic.

Non-urgent patients usually wait for nearly two years before being diagnosed by a psychiatrist. They now could have a shorter waiting time by visiting the Common Mental Disorder Clinic at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong, said Pang Pui-fai, a consultant at the Department of Psychiatry in the hospital.

The number of new cases of mental illnesses reached 7,000 in 2015. Among them, 60 percent are patients with common mental disorders such as mild depression, insomnia or anxieties.

The total number of patients registered at psychiatric departments in the cluster increased by 66 percent from 58,663 in 2005 to 97,497 in 2015. Waiting time for mental health treatment is the longest among all the specialist services offered in the public health system.

Under the pilot program that runs from July 2016 to March 2017, 1,500 new cases, upon preliminary evaluation of their mild mental illnesses, can seek treatment at specialist outpatient clinics.

Treatment for them will begin with a consultation with psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists and professional therapists. Treatment typically lasts for a year. The doctors may recommend an extension or refer the patient to a psychiatric department in a hospital or community rehabilitation center.

A woman surnamed Chan suffering mild depression and anxiety visited the clinic in July. She received treatment twice in three weeks and said she was satisfied with the efficiency.

The Hospital Authority estimates up to 1.7 million Hong Kong people suffer from different types of mental illness, with 70,000 to 200,000 of them considered to have a severe condition.

Dara Wang contributed to the story.

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