The Nationalist Party is promising to close Mount Carmel Hospital and regenerate it as a public open space, with people having mental health issues being treated at a new hospital close to Mater Dei.

A PN government would also update the outdated list of medicines on the government's formulary with innovative treatment for those suffering from chronic mental illness, the party's health spokesperson, Stephen Spiteri, promised on Wednesday.

The shadow minister was addressing the launch of PN's proposals for mental wellbeing, which the party is promising to put on equal footing with physical health. 

The sector, he said, had been neglected for far too long, and mental health patients were being treated as second class citizens. 

At the same time, people were increasingly suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, ADHD and dementia.

The PN's proposals include a 24/7 emergency psychiatry team, a mental health emergency observation unit, training in mental health for family doctors, and day centres for those who are unable to work due to their mental health issues.

Addressing the same press conference, PN candidate Paula Mifsud Bonnici said a Nationalist government would expand psychiatry services in the community by bolstering staff at existing centres and opening new ones to treat people facing mental health challenges. 

Another candidate, Julie Zahra, said the PN was also promising an education campaign to help get rid of the stigma related to mental wellbeing while raising awareness about disparaging language. 

Zahra, an educator by profession, said that she has seen students struggling with mental health challenges at secondary school level because their mental health issues would not have been identified earlier on. Most often, these same students ended up at the receiving end of disparaging comments.

She added that the party was also proposing added resources to the Mental Health Commissioner, including the employment of a lawyer to provide pro bono services to those claiming a breach of human rights. 

Earlier on Wednesday, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced that over the past 10 days, 28 long-term patients were relocated from Mount Carmel to the new 50-bed facility at Casal Nuovo in Paola.

The government has already promised to open a new hospital by 2025. 

Concern about the state of the Attard hospital made headlines in recent years after most of its ceilings were condemned by architects in 2019.

Psychiatrists have described Mount Carmel as "not fit for purpose" and are calling for a temporary mental health hospital until the promised new one is built.

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