‘SBRANA worse than Boko Haram’

Yvonne Mooka - BG reporter
Monday, 18 April 2016
‘SBRANA worse than Boko Haram’

A  Kanye woman has written to president Ian Khama complaining about ill-treatment and abuse at the hands of SBRANA psychiatric hospital staff in 2013.

Freelance journalist Ponalo Thobega 35, says she was admitted at the Lobatse mental hospital, following a depressive illness from her childhood challenges. Narrating the incident to BG News, Thobega says she was not disabled when she got admitted at the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, she was given Benzhexol tablets, which are usually prescribed for Schizophrenic patients.

“I refused to take them because I knew I wasn’t a psychiatric patient,” she says. She was then locked up with another patient who attempted to commit suicide in front of her. “When I told the nurses about it, they ignored me thinking I was a mental case,” she adds. The patient has since killed herself. Thobega was taken to another room where her room-mate took all her food for the whole week, starving her.

“They locked us inside there and would slide the food under the door,” she states. She would then find a way out of the room and jumped over the hospital wall with the plan to go back home. Unfortunately, some residents of Lobatse saw her and identified her by hospital clothes and forcibly delivered her to hospital security.

‘Skimberly’ style
“Upon arrival, the nurses told me they were going to fix me. There were seven women and one of them just shouted ‘Skimberly!’ They tied my hands to the back, kept my legs crossed and stiffened, and lifted my knees to my waist area for a full hour, whilst taking turns to assault me,” she says, fighting back tears.

Her father John Thobega, who is also an amputee, says he managed to convince the hospital staff to discharge his daughter so that he could take her for medical examination. Her medical record from Princess Marina hospital shows that she suffered painful limbs both upper and lower, joints pain and pain in the abdomen.

The mother of one says she was treated like an outcast at SBRANA. “I cannot walk anymore,” she says, pointing at the psychiatric hospital staff for ruining her life as an independent, single mother. Meanwhile, a preliminary psychiatric report from Princess Marina hospital says her mental condition was within normal range. The exam was conducted in February this year.

“It has not been possible to get collaborative history, save for a single admission in the distant past to SBRANA hospital for a depressive illness. She stopped taking anti-depressants a long time. She had no depression or any discernible mental illness at the time of assessment,” states then acting Superintendent Ishmael Makone.

Official response
SBRANA hospital Superintendent Dr. Mpho Thula said the hospital does not discuss patients with the media, unless the patient has consented through written proof.  He however, said that the hospital retains two types of patients being voluntary and involuntary patients. The former, he said, are those that come willingly and mostly for counselling over depression.

Involuntary patients are the ones committed by legal instruments such as mental disorder acts. The latter are usually brought in by the police because they refuse to be detained. “We don’t beat patients. We usually resort to injecting them. Once they recover sanity, they will then agree to take oral treatment,” he says.

On ‘Skimberly,’ Dr. Thula said it is an informal name used for the physical restraining of patients, who are violent to themselves and to people around them. “We do so on rare occasions if the patient is violent. The purpose is to hold the patient so that an injection can be ministered to him or her, but we don’t beat patients,” he said.

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