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Call for “Friends of the Donkin”

Dr Stoffel Grobler, clinical head and acting hospital manager of the Elizabeth Donkin Psychiatric Hospital in Port Elizabeth, addressed the Men’s Breakfast and the Women’s Tea at the Golf Club last week, providing some insight into the challenges faced at the hospital as well as sharing his vision of instigating a “Friends of the Donkin” group.

Dr Grobler made an impassioned plea that people with mental illnesses such as bi-polar and schizophrenia be accepted into the community and treated as human beings rather than being shunned, and stigmatised.

Stoffel and Eva

Dr Grobler and Eva Taylor who organised the talk.

Patients suffering severely from these illnesses sometimes need to be safeguarded, as are others with whom they come into contact. When in this extreme condition they have to be hospitalised till they are stable and can be released into the community again.

The Donkin has only 32 beds but has to cope with 60 odd patients at a time in the “acute” locked ward and this puts enormous pressure on the hospital staff as well as the patients who have to sleep on the floor.

Even mundane problems have to be sorted out such as finding the basic necessities like toilet paper and toothbrushes. Government assistance is limited so he hopes to start an NGO “Friends” group to raise awareness of mental illness, to provide advice, information, and contacts with people who can help in some way. He needs people with legal and financial backgrounds to assist with advice and also those with fundraising skills.

Dr Grobler explained that he had managed to source extra beds but had no way of transporting them to the Donkin. He shared this example with the audience and what was very gratifying was the response then and there by Keith Lester who said he would organise the necessary transport.

Making people aware of problems certainly does bring results and it is support of this nature that “Friends of the Donkin” hopes to muster.

Dr Grobler can be contacted on 083 577 2677 or on e-mail at if you can assist in any way.

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