Not enough mental health beds available on P.E.I., Opposition claims

·3 min read
A lack of staff is to blame for what P.E.I.'s Opposition says is not enough spaces to treat islanders in mental distress.  (CBC - image credit)
A lack of staff is to blame for what P.E.I.'s Opposition says is not enough spaces to treat islanders in mental distress. (CBC - image credit)

The Official Opposition says government isn't moving fast enough to improve mental health care services on the Island.

Friday in the legislature, the Greens asked the governing Progressive Conservatives for an update on psychiatric services on the Island — specifically, how many mental health beds are currently open at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital's psychiatric unit and the Prince County Hospital.

Earlier this year government promised to open more beds, but Islanders are still waiting to know if that happened.

The Greens also sought details on P.E.I.'s new mobile mental health units, which have been operating for about two weeks, asking where patients who use the service are taken if they must be admitted to hospital, and how many mental health beds are available when they get there.

"The mobile unit is a noble support, but they are only the beginning, literally the beginning, of a crisis," said Opposition health critic Michele Beaton. "The need for mental health services on P.E.I. hasn't decreased, where are Islanders in need of treatment supposed to go?"

Government confirmed Friday the mobile mental health units have so far received 274 calls and been deployed 38 times, with fewer than 10 patients referred to an emergency department.

3 mental health beds on P.E.I. right now

According to Health PEI, currently 13 out of 14 mental health beds are full at the Prince County Hospital in Summerside.

Fourteen of 15 acute-care beds are full at the Hillsborough Hospital, P.E.I.'s psychiatric hospital in Charlottetown for patients with severe or longer-term mental illness. Four of the beds at this hospital are specifically for children and youth.

There is space for 20 beds in Unit 9 at the QEH in Charlottetown, but right now only 10 beds are available for mental health patients, and nine of those are full. The province said it is still working to hire a clinical lead to allow that number to go to 12.

That leaves three vacant available mental health beds across the province.

"The long and the short is staffing, the same as we have right across the board," said Health Minister Ernie Hudson. "But we're making strides and we're moving in the right direction."

"The fact there are any empty beds means our flow is better right now than it has been and access to beds is available," a provincial government spokesperson said in a follow-up email to CBC News.

Hudson said there are several mental health services available to Islanders right now which they can access through the new mental health phone line: 1-833-553-6983.

P.E.I. Centre for Mental Wellbeing

Beaton said while government has announced new mental health initiatives, it's too focused on long-term solutions — she pointed to the recently-announced medical school at UPEI and the Centre for Mental Wellbeing.

CBC News
CBC News

The King government had promised in February the P.E.I. Centre for Wellbeing would be operational by this fall. It's to be a dedicated organization funded by, but independent of, government, that will work with community organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association, PEERS Alliance, the Boys and Girls Club and others to create a co-ordinated network of services available for Islanders when they need them.

Late Friday afternoon, P.E.I.'s Health Department issued a statement saying the new centre will be launched "in the coming weeks.

"The centre will include funding that will be made available for community groups and non-profits this fiscal year to offer additional community mental health supports to Island residents," the statement said.

Beaton said the province should immediately focus on beefing up front-line supports for Islanders.

"Mental health patients need to be treated, they need the health care right now, and I mean planning for the future, that's all great, but if you don't have a solution for them today, tomorrow, this week then we're doing a disservice to them."

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