All You Need To Know About How Medical Rehabilitation Started In Nigeria

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The history of mental rehabilitation in Nigeria is incomplete without the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Lagos. Since beginning life as the Yaba Lunatic Asylum in October 1907, when its primary purpose was to serve as a holding place for keeping the mentally ill out of the way of ‘normal’ people in the society, the hospital has played a leading role in the evolution of mental care to treatment and healing, not just holding, of patients.

In the opening years of its founding, and until 1950, it was purely an asylum. The first batch of 48 inmates were admitted in a rundown Nigeria Railway Building in Yaba. It was a time West Africa was generally witnessing the opening of asylums. Before this time, the mentally ill were kept in the custody of native doctors, who often contained but sometimes restrained them.

By 1951, qualified psychiatrists, nurses and pharmacists were starting to arrive. After it was managed by expatriates until the mid-1950s, the responsibility of management fell on Abraham Ordia, the first Nigerian psychiatric nurse. The next 20 years would witness the creation of an outpatient department and the commencement of occupational therapy. From the Yaba Asylum, it became the Yaba Mental Hospital. These changes were accompanied by a rising patient population that wasn’t matched by increased staffing. One hundred patients in 1925 became 200 in 1944 and 448 in 1961, yet only one doctor manned the facility. It wasn’t until 1961 that two more psychiatrists — Dr. A Boroffka, a German, and Dr A Marinho, the first Nigerian psychiatrist to work at the hospital — were employed.

More recent decades have seen the staffing of nurses and pharmacists, a second name change to the Neuropsychiatric Hospital and the appointment of Nigeria’s first female psychiatrist as Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the hospital. These strides notwithstanding, Yaba Left was neck deep into violating is ‘guiding principles’, listed on its official website to include “patient-centred service delivery, patient and staff welfare, transparency and accountability”.


Abass Latifat

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