Electroconvulsive therapy returns to Windsor hospital

Electro-convulsive therapy will be available in Windsor beginning next month.

Windsor Regional Hospital has decided to go it alone and offer the service, even though attempts to get promised government funding has failed to date.

"This is the position I didn't want to get into. But it's tough right now," hospital CEO David Musyj said. "The ministry has no money. The patients need the service. We're stuck. So we're erring on the side of our community, erring on the side of the patients."

The hospital board will take $250,000 from the hospital's mental health program budget to run the ECT suite until March of next year. Musyj said he's "concerned" about funding after March 31, 2013. He claims the Ministry of Health doesn't think the funding is necessary.

Earlier this year, Erie St. Clair LHIN CEO Gary Switzer said money will flow and encouraged the hospital to open an ECT facility at its new west-side mental health facility.

"I've talked to David Musyj at the hospital - the CEO - and I suggested: Why doesn't he start the implementation process now, because the funding will be coming," Switzer told CBC News on May 9.

A call to Switzer wasn't immediately returned Friday.

Earlier this year, Musyj said the hospital would expedite the completion of the suite, but wouldn't treat anyone until the money actually arrived. That's changed.

Musyj says there is currently a waiting list of 20 to 30 patients in need of electro-convulsive therapy.

"It's needed. We have patients that need the service," Musyj said. "The alternative is medication but it's not as good. ECT is what's needed."

The hospital is prepping three patients to begin treatment next month. Once up and running, the clinic will treat three people per day, on average.

The total costs include $350,000 for equipment and $600,000 a year in operating costs.

Musyj said a stumbling block is that there was a thought that funding for ECT would be transferred from London to Windsor.

"That's not factually true. We’ve been in a debate, through the LIHN, for the last six months," Musyj said.

According to the Ministry of Health, ECT is used to relieve severe depression, but isn’t recommended for everyone. The ministry’s website said it is not known why this treatment makes patients feel and act less depressed.

A shock is administered for one to two seconds and the patient is under anaesthetic for about five minutes.

"Anti-depressants are about 80 per cent effective in patients. ECT is 90 per cent effective," Dr. Leonardo Cortese, Windsor Regional Hospital's chief of psychiatry, told CBC News in May.

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