Background: Some specialists and policy makers advocate progression of the mental health reform in Israel by transferring beds from psychiatric to general hospitals.
Objectives: To compare the demographic, diagnostic and psychopathological profiles of psychiatric inpatients hospitalized in psychiatric and general hospitals, as well as their patterns of drug abuse and to estimate the preparedness of general hospitals for the possible expansion of their psychiatric services.
Methods: Between 2002 and 2006 a total of 250 patients were consecutively admitted to the Jerusalem Mental Health Center-Kfar Shaul Hospital and 220 to the psychiatric department of Sheba Medical Center, a general hospital in central Israel; the patients’ ages ranged from 18 to 65. The two groups were compared for demographic features, psychiatric diagnoses and severity of psychopathology (utilizing PANSS, HAD-21, YMRS rating scales). Drug abuse was diagnosed by urine analyses and self-report.
Results: The patients in the psychiatric hospital were significantly younger, predominantly male, and more dependent on social security payments. In the general hospital, diagnoses of affective and anxiety disorders prevailed, while in the psychiatric hospital schizophrenic and other psychotic patients constituted the majority. The patients in the general hospital were decidedly more depressed; in the psychiatric hospital, notably higher rates of manic symptoms as well as positive, negative and general schizophrenic symptoms were reported. For the most abused substances (opiates, cannabis and methamphetamines) the rates in the psychiatric hospital were significantly higher.
Conclusions: The differences between the two groups of inpatients were very pronounced, and therefore, the transferring of psychiatric beds to general hospitals could not be done without serious and profound organizational, educational and financial changes in the psychiatric services of general hospitals. Since each of the two inpatient systems has particular specializations and experience with the different subgroups of patients, they could coexist for a long time.