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Hospital Patients Help Fix Wheelchairs
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Hospital Patients Help Fix Wheelchairs

The Ekuhlengeni Psychiatric Hospital is teaching their hospital patients to fix wheelchairs. Dr. Sibongiseni Dhlomo of the KwaZulu- Natal Health MEC was all praise for the management of this hospital for having the ingenuity to provide their mental healthcare patients with these kinds of skills.

The Ekuhlengeni Psychiatric Hospital was first established in January of 1975. Having 652 beds, they aimed to provide assistance and care to mental healthcare users, also known as MHCU’s, who were victims of chronic mental disorders.  

Scope of Ekuhlengeni Psychiatric Hospital

This psychiatric hospital has been working toward the well-being of patients who are unable to live in communities due to the inconsiderate stigma they are subjected to. Apart from this, these patients may also sometimes be victims of abuse or simply be rejected by their families due to their illness. In other cases, families are unable to cope with the stress of mental disorders and all of these are cases that lead to patients being taken to this hospital.

Chief Physiotherapist of the hospital, Marilyn Hooblaul, stated that back in 2011, just when she began working at this hospital, her team had analyzed the number of wheelchairs that were present in the hospital. From the 47 possessed by the institution, most were damaged, while some were completely unused.

Since she found that many parts could be replaced and there wasn’t any need to procure new ones, they decided that fixing the wheelchairs would be a viable option and it could be done by their own Mental Health Care Users.

How did they take the idea forward?

Since there had never been any other institution that had decided to walk down this path, they decided to go straight to a wheelchair company and ask them to teach the hospital employees and patients how to fix wheelchairs. Luckily for them, the company they approached was very cooperative and even contributed the consumables and tools that these healthcare workers and patients would need to undertake this task.

Currently, in its fourth year, this hospital has had more than 80 wheelchairs repaired by their patients, and in the process have saved the hospital from spending large sums of money that can now be spent elsewhere. This innovation by the hospital received recognition from the Premier who went on to bestow a Silver Award to the hospital. It has also been found that the involvement of MHCU’s has reduced the number of incidents that occur within the hospital.

An Innovation with Multi-faceted Benefits

Apart from its cost-effectiveness, this project has assisted the patients in the hospital by providing them with psycho-social rehabilitation. It helps distract patients from their everyday boredom and restlessness while simultaneously providing them with an opportunity to vent out their aggression while teaching the patients problem-solving skills and providing them with more information.

Dhlomo states that this project can certainly be replicated in other institutions but they would first like to develop this hospital into a center where broken wheelchairs from all over the Province could be brought for repair. He claims that he is more than happy to provide Ekuhlengeni hospital with the resources for the project to develop further as it is being seen as truly beneficial for those patients who work on fixing the wheelchairs.


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