By Manana Ghoghoberidze and Nanuka Bregadze
Chinese government allocated $13.7 million in support of Georgia’s mental health care reform in 2014-2016. According to the agreement, now new mental health centers should be operating in Senaki and Telavi. But even the construction process has not started yet.
According to the information of the Ministry of Health of Georgia, the construction process should have started in summer 2016 and be finished in the first quarter of 2017.
Now, neither the Ministry of Health, nor the Embassy of China responds to our question if the money allocated according to the agreement, was in fact transferred to the account of the Georgian side and if the government began to spend it.
In 2016 a group of chinese architects arrived in Senaki. They examined the building and area of Senaki psychoneurological dispensary. According to the project, it was planned to rehabilitate the existing dispensary and to construct a new 30 bed hospital, equipped with modern technology. It was also planned to build a department of psychological service and critical intervention, different offices and a medical room fully-equipped with latest equipment in that area. A multifunctional complex should have been built also in Telavi.
Ia Gelovani, a director of Senaki mental health center, does not have information about the details of the project and is not aware of the date when the construction should be finished.
“I was attending the meetings. But the topic of the discussion was soil characteristics, the quality of water, voltage, work conditions… These are the details that were negotiated, nothing else. There was no discussion when this would happen, when it would begin, or be finished.”
According to Ia Gelovani, if the new clinic is not built, more effort will be necessary to upgrade the existing building to modern standards,
Senaki Mayor discussed the timeline of the project in more detail with us. Levan Kupreishvili blamed coronavirus for delaying a construction process. According to him, if not for the pandemic, the construction of the mental health centers should have started this spring.
“Exactly one year has probably passed. They visited in June. We arranged their meetings with specialists, architect service. We arranged their meetings with everyone and they liked everything. They left afterwards and were supposed to work on a project. But now the coronavirus has delayed the construction.”
The talks about the construction of new mental health centres in Telavi and Senaki started back in 2015. According to Irakli Garibashvili’s decree, the Prime Minister of Georgia at that time, 760, 000 Chinese Yuan (119 029 USD) was allocated for technical-economical analysis of the centre’s construction.
Responsibilities of Georgian and Chinese sides:
For building mental health centers the state transferred land plots of more than 2 000 sq.m in Senaki and land of 11 300 sq.m in Telavi to the Ministry of Health altogether with the buildings located on them for temporary use.
The Chinese side was responsible for taking care of the design of the buildings, supplying construction with the building materials, sending engineers, technical personnel, and workers to the sight.
The importance of the project
Eka Chkonia, the head of the Psychiatrists Society states, that there are not enough mental health services in Georgia. There is a special need for new mental health centers in the Kakheti region.
“There is nothing besides an outpatient clinic in Kakheti. For providing intensive therapy, a patient has to be taken from Kakheti to Tbilisi, be placed in a big psychiatric hospital, and be cut off from the family.”
Eka Chkonia also attended the discussion process of the project that was planned to be implemented with the help of the chinese investment. She hoped that the process would start in 2016, but it did not happen this way. Now we have that type of facility only in Rustavi.
Representatives of the healthcare sector have spoken about the necessity of these projects before. Lasha Kiladze, the head of the Center for Mental Health and Prevention of Addiction, last year underscored that the beds in Georgian psychiatric clinics were fully occupied. “The registered bed number is about 1300. Most of them are occupied by patients with chronic conditions, who because of some reasons, are staying at these institutions, but do not need active medical interventions.”
The Public Defender also discussed this problem in 2018. According to the Ombudsman’s report, wards in big psychiatric institutions are overcrowded and patients do not have enough private space.
Despite this reality, the discussions about construction mental health centers stopped on the level of negotiations. As we were informed at the Ministry of Health the construction has not started. We were told the same at the Mayor’s office in Telavi, nothing is being built there yet and nor do they have any information about the construction starting date.
Neither anyone at the Ministry of Health, nor any representative at the Embassy of China agreed to comment on the issue.