Thursday, June 30, 2022

Drug smugglers make roaring trade inside Lobatse mental hospital

In another blow to the already lax security at Sbrana Psychiatric Hospital, officials this week confirmed a drug trafficking scheme inside the hospital walls.

The shocking revelations emerged during a Botswana Substance Abuse Support Network (BOSASNet) Community Support Group monthly panel discussion last week. A member of the audience, one Dikatso Selemogwe, asked the Hospital Superintendent Dr Mpho Abel Thula, who was one of the panellists, if he was aware of the drug trafficking scheme inside the hospital premises: “Yes we are aware of drug smuggling inside our premises. When doing spot checks we have caught some of our patients in possession of marijuana,” admitted Dr Thula.

It emerged that contraband, such as drugs, enters the state’s correctional facilities through a number of avenues, including visits to patients. Dr Thula said in most cases drug smugglers masquerade as visitors to patients while their intention is to push drugs mostly to recovering addicts. He said the smugglers target former drug addicts who are vulnerable and soft targets.

In a follow-up interview, Dr Thula said marijuana was the drug of choice. He expressed concern that marijuana causes mental illness and it is unfortunate that it is the most used drug by patients. He said this disrupts patients’ treatment. The doctor further explained that some residents at Sbrana hospital are forensic patients on legal custody. He said such people find the hospital as a place of freedom, unlike in prison, where they might find it hard to access drugs.

Dr Thula told Sunday Standard that last year they received a tip off about a certain lady who was peddling drugs to patients, masquerading as a visitor. He said the lady was caught by Lobatse Police and then charged.

The Hospital Superintendant also regretted that as the hospital management, there is very little they can do about the problem of drug smuggling. He said that a psychiatric hospital is a community centre, without any restriction for visitations, so drug smuggling will not be easy to eliminate. He said they are not law enforcers who can do stop and search or restrict visitors from getting inside the hospital.

On a positive note, Dr Thula told Sunday Standard that they will start doing drug tests to try and assess the extent of drug use and drug smuggling. He said by the start of next month, a machine for testing will be ready for use. Cocaine, dagga (marijuana), and alcohol will be tested for by this machine.

In the past, Sbrana hospital did not have a drug testing machine.

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