New Short Stay Unit at IMH will help patients with crisis intervention

The unit will provide up to 72 hours of monitoring and management of patients.
The unit will provide up to 72 hours of monitoring and management of patients.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - People facing a mental health crisis and needing urgent care after a traumatic event will be able to seek short-term treatment at a new unit at the Institute of Mental Health.

The Short Stay Unit, which is expected to open later this year, will provide up to 72 hours of monitoring and management for those who require short-term crisis intervention and stabilisation for acute conditions.

Patients will then be discharged or transferred to another ward for follow-up management if needed.

This was among the new initiatives Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary touched on in a speech at the annual IMH Nurses' Day celebration held virtually on Friday (July 30).

In his address, Dr Janil, who was the guest of honour, said nurses will play a bigger role in IMH's new model of care, which advocates a holistic approach to mental health care.

He added that wards at the institute are being refurbished and redesigned to offer better physical space and a conducive environment, so more personalised recovery programmes can be carried out.

Commending the efforts of IMH's nurses during the Covid-19 pandemic, he said: "In the middle of this pandemic, our psychiatric nurses have been at the forefront of protecting patients from the virus. You have faced many challenges, from redesigning patient flow, to stratifying risks of patients being admitted with Covid-19, and quickly isolating any patients with signs of the infection."

Dr Janil added that last year, when there was a call for help with the national Covid-19 operations, more than 300 IMH nurses came forward and were deployed to carry out intensive swab testing in the community.

"This year, you stood up yet again to administer Covid-19 vaccination shots for your colleagues and long-stay patients. Thank you for playing such critical roles in our fight against the pandemic," he said.

At the ceremony on Friday, IMH gave out 22 awards to outstanding nurses for their contribution towards patient care and teamwork.

Senior nurse manager Hou Yanli, who has worked at IMH for 15 years, received the institute's highest award - the Nightingale Award - for being an outstanding nurse who provided excellent service to patients and also for being an effective mentor to staff.

In February last year, Ms Hou, 38, played an active role in setting up IMH's first intellectual disability inpatient rehabilitation programme.

The programme, which now has 18 patients, caters to those who have a mental illness as well as an intellectual disability, and who are often institutionalised due to challenges in caring for them.

Through the programme, selected patients participate in various structured rehabilitation initiatives, which are facilitated by nurses, occupational therapists and multi-skilled therapy assistants.

As the first cases of Covid-19 were reported in Singapore last year, the team realised they had to modify their approach.

Ms Hou said: "This programme helps patients to develop social and communication skills, and gain confidence and independence. Some things we had planned for, such as family engagement, have been put on hold due to the pandemic.

"But we pushed ahead with other initiatives, working in small groups to ensure everyone's safety."

Baking was one of the programmes initiated by Ms Hou and her team in March.

About five patients were identified and trained to bake celebration cakes for patients' birthdays in five in-patient wards. Through the initiative, the participants learnt to follow instructions and work together towards a shared goal.



Senior nurse manager Hou Yanli with a cake baked by patients. PHOTO: INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH

Ms Hou, who first came to Singapore to study and stayed on after getting a job, has not visited her family in Hebei province for nearly two years - since the pandemic started.

She said: "I was surprised when I found out I got the Nightingale Award, and I called up my parents right after work to share the news.

"I miss my family and would like to see them soon."