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Staffing problems still not solved for local mental health unit


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More than 75 people who have either used the mental health inpatient unit or know someone who has, as well as local politicians, protested on Monday morning the temporary closure of the unit. AMANDA JESS – THE NEWS

NEW GLASGOW – Efforts to recruit psychiatrist nurses and doctors to the Aberdeen Hospital’s mental health unit have been unsuccessful so far, says the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

“Although recruitment efforts to fill nursing and psychiatry vacancies continue, but we have not been successful,” said Everton MacLean from the NSHA.

In a release, he stated the Aberdeen Hospital’s mental health unit closed in early August because of the unavailability of sufficient nursing and psychiatry staff which made it impossible to provide, safe, effective inpatient care.

The health authority said it continues to people who need treatment are getting it through a hospital or community setting.

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine during a visit the county Tuesday that any decision on the unit’s re-opening is in the hands of the Nova Scotia Health Authority. 

“Our government and the department support the reopening of a psychiatric unit, and we certainly have the finances to do that, but in terms of operations, that is now the NS health authority,” he said. “They are responsible for the recruitment and the retention of our clinical teams to be able to run, whether it’s medical or mental health, units across the province.”

Glavine said he hasn’t had an update in the last few weeks as to where the recruitment process stands.

“Sometimes, there are occasions when you’re waiting for the next graduating class, or you’ll have a team that will maybe go to the (United Kingdom)  where we’ve recruited a number of people. They have very advanced mental health work going on in the UK. We often look there. It’s ultimately the provincial health authority to make the final decision.”

The three Progressive Conservative MLAs for the Pictou area are calling on the Liberal government to keep its word and re-open the Aberdeen Mental Health unit.

“Unfortunately, it appears my worst fear has come true,” Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane said. “Despite what the Health Minister said, this is not at all a temporary closure and Pictou County residents are suffering without important mental health services.”

Tim Houston, Pictou East MLA, says it’s inconceivable that patients and their families have been forced to places as far away as Yarmouth for mental health service.

"People who are mentally ill and need support should be close to their families. It's an important part of the healing process," said Houston. "Transporting them to the other end of the province is just not an acceptable solution from the Liberals." 

Pat Dunn, MLA for Pictou Centre, wants a straight answer for his constituents from Health Minister Leo Glavine.

“When can the patients, who relied on the Aberdeen mental health unit, expect it to re-open?" asks Dunn. "We need answers from Minister Glavine. This is unacceptable."

The PCs having been raising issue with the crisis in mental health services. They have been calling on the Liberal government to launch a public inquiry into the mental health system.

Earlier this week, Baillie previewed the Bill the PCs will introduce in the upcoming House session. It calls for an action plan on mental health and a public inquiry.

 "The Liberals say there is no crisis in the mental health system. I don’t know how they can hear the stories that I have heard and still say that," said Baillie. "The Progressive Conservative Caucus will use every tool at our disposal to shine a light on this issue and prove to the Liberals that there is a crisis."

Steps the NSHA is taking to improve health care:

New temporary mental health nursing positions in the Aberdeen Hospital Emergency Department have improved patient care by supporting better patient flow through the department, providing seamless transfers to other facilities, and actively involving family members in care plans. A new crisis clinician is being hired to support the emergency department’s crisis response team.

During the past 13 weeks, seven patients required voluntary admission to an adult mental health unit (which is what the Aberdeen Hospital’s mental health inpatient unit is for); four were admitted to neighbouring hospitals, three else where in Nova Scotia.

The Aberdeen Hospital’s Emergency Department Crisis Response Team assessed 76 patients from August to November.  The Crisis Response Team delivered effective discharge planning through liaison with ED staff, family physicians, community resources, patients and family members. These numbers are consistent with previous periods.

The Mental Health Mobile Crisis team is another service available to help people cope with mental health issues.  People can call the 24-hour, 7 day-a-week toll-free number 1-888-429-8167 from anywhere in Nova Scotia.

 

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