Desmond inquiry: ex-manager of veterans clinic said it lacked psychiatric resources

·2 min read

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — A former manager with a clinic for veterans in Nova Scotia told an inquiry Thursday the facility had a shortage of psychiatric services when a former soldier was referred there.

Derek Leduc, the former health services manager for the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Nova Scotia, testified at the inquiry investigating events that led Afghanistan war veteran Lionel Desmond to kill himself and three of his family members in 2017.

"We had very limited psychiatric resources at that time," Leduc said of the clinic during Thursday's proceedings.

Leduc said a "building wait list" of clients seeking to access the facility's specialized services did delay care.

Inquiry counsel Shane Russell asked Leduc if "there was a supply and demand bottleneck on these resources" in the fall of 2016 when Desmond was referred for care, and Leduc said there was.

"You were cutting off some of the demand coming through the door, and the rationale was that you couldn't meet it," Russell said.

The clinic eventually recommended to Veterans Affairs Canada that prospective clients might be able to get quicker access to resources through the community. At the time, the clinic only had one psychiatrist who was working part-time.

Leduc said Desmond's case was put on hold while the occupational stress injury clinic determined if he had a family doctor. A former nurse at the clinic, Natasha Tofflemire, previously told the inquiry that the clinic put his file on hold on Oct. 6, 2016 while it waited to hear back from Desmond's case manager with Veterans Affairs about the family doctor.

Tofflemire said the federal agency did not call back about Desmond’s file, and she left her job about a week after his case was put on hold.

The inquiry previously heard Desmond was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression in 2011 and received four years of treatment before he left the Canadian Armed Forces in 2015.

During an earlier hearing, Zimmer noted Desmond was complaining of worsening PTSD symptoms when he showed up at a hospital emergency room in Antigonish, N.S., on Oct. 24, 2016.

Zimmer read from hospital files showing Desmond was feeling angry, sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, depressed and paranoid when he spoke to doctors in the emergency ward. Desmond also talked about his inability to navigate the systems set up by Veterans Affairs.

On Jan. 3, 2017, the former infantryman killed his 31-year-old wife, Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press