The Hospital at Mina-1-Mai (Vulcan)
The psychiatric hospital at Mina-1-Mai was the first that the charity was asked to help by carrying out some building improvements. The first team to visit did not know what to expect when they arrived. The following account was from one of the early team members.
"At the top of the road was the hospital, dark and imposing. When we entered the hospital, out hearts were filled with sorrow as we tried to take in the sight before our eyes. The patients were unclothed or only had very grubby pyjamas to wear, the floor was covered in excrement and the smell was almost unbearable. Through the gloom of the main room, where they eat and spend some of their day, we could see patients sitting and rocking themselves or wandering aimlessly around. We were shown the toilets that they were improving. With excrement covering the floor, the footprint type toilets were just recognisable, there were no working flushes and outside the backdoor was a pit which had been dug to hold the effluent from the broken sewer."
"In all this, some of the patients came up to us and smiled or shook our hands. The staff welcomed us and helped when they had time. Slowly some of the patients joined in helping us and helped us with fetching and carrying. We soon became familiar with the patients and started to sing to them and draw with them. They were so grateful to use our crayons and pens. The atmosphere became friendly, and we started new joint activities with the patients. They were also so pleased with their 'new' toilets which we had cleaned up for them"
Although this account was written a number of years ago, it still manages to illustrate many of the aspects of a visit which a team member may experience today. Physical conditions have thankfully improved over the years, however the stark contrast to conditions in British hospitals still leaves a deep impression on team members.
The condition of the hospital structure was also concerning. There was little or no maintenance either inside or out. The electrics were not only poor, but also very dangerous. It was not uncommon, even now, to see staff just inserting bare wires cables for kettles or heaters directly into the 'mains' sockets.
In 1997, the Charity was overjoyed to see the development of occupational therapy in the form of rabbit keeping. Such initiatives were due to the work of the new Director, Dr. Alexandria Gregorian. Having spent a year in the USA, he speaks good English and seems keen to fight the system and introduce radical improvements to the patients quality of life.
The Charity also employs a dentist at the hospital who calls regularly once a month. The patients have benefited greatly from this service as many were suffering much pain and there were no funds in the hospital budget for dental care. Over a period of two years dentists in England donated the necessary equipment to furnish a surgery. A dentist was recommended who was willing to work with these poor patients and in 1998 the project was complete. Dr Ion Popa is popular with both patients and staff. In fact on one of our visits he even removed an aching tooth from one of our team members.
Work with the patients varies considerably depending on the skills of the team members. Patients suffer from a range of chronic mental health, social problems and learning difficulties. Virtually all seem to crave physical attention and stimulation at various levels. Many patients are very talented speaking foreign languages, being musical or artistic. Simply turning up at the hospital courtyard with tambourines, balloons, balls or bubbles is much appreciated by many of the patients.
During the visit in 2001, it was identified that the front supporting wall at the hospital was in a seriously dangerous condition and on the verge of collapse. During the summer visit of 2002, despite the severe rain storms, the teams managed to construct large supporting concrete buttresses to ensure the stability of the walls for years to come.