The shortage of psychiatrists of C.B. could force young people in crisis to seek care in Halifax – Nova Scotia


A shortage of psychiatrists in Cape Breton could force young people in crisis to travel more than four hours to the IWK in Halifax for help.

In a recent memo to hospital staff, the head of the department of psychiatry at Cape Breton said that it is no longer possible for psychiatrists to properly treat young people and children in the emergency room and adult psychiatric inpatient units.

Dr. Scott Milligan said that as of December 1, anyone under the age of 19 who requires psychiatric care beyond what is available in outpatient clinics should be sent to the IWK for evaluation.

That recommendation has not yet been accepted, said the Nova Scotia Health Agency. Authority.

The memo noted that there is only one psychiatrist of part-time children and adolescents and seven adult psychiatrists in the Cape Breton Regional Hospital when the region should be closer to 16.

It is the second memorandum of this month to draw Attention to the shortage of psychiatrists in Cape Breton.

"We have always done everything possible to treat these patients locally, but we simply do not have the resources to provide the safe, timely and appropriate care that these young people deserve," he wrote. Milligan in the internal note dated November 19.

"Young people in Cape Breton, like young people in Halifax, deserve specialized care when necessary." Having fourteen or sixteen years in an adult psychiatric unit c in Sydney is not acceptable. "

Young people are will slide through the cracks

Dr. Margaret Fraser, who works part-time in Cape Breton's emergency room, said she is concerned that families will not make the trip to Halifax because they can not afford it.

"I see many patients shrink and say:" No, I'm sorry, we just can not do that "… so I can see the children sliding through the cracks. children who do not receive care because of this, "said Fraser.

  emergency room physician Margaret Fraser

Dr. Margaret Fraser often sees about four young people who experience mental health crisis every month. (Norma Jean MacPhee / CBC)

Normally you see about four young people who experience a mental health crisis each month, he said.

Given the three teen suicides that occurred in the community last year, Fraser wonders where the promise of help from the province is.

"This is a pretty basic service: child psychiatry, this is something we should absolutely have," Fraser said.

The health authority & # 39; continues to recruit & # 39;

Nova Scotia Health Authority Spokesman Greg Boone said taking advantage of the resources of other psychiatric units in the province is a possibility.

"We know that we will have to adjust the way we offer some services based on the resources we have currently available, and that has not been a secret, in the sense that we have vacancies and are still recruiting," he said. .

If young people from Cape Breton were sent to Halifax, they would be those in emergency situations. But the time they expect will depend on the IWK team doing the badessment, Boone said.

Expected 111 days in Halifax

According to the provincial website, the average waiting time for mental health services for children and adolescents in the IWK is almost four months. The only region with the highest waiting times is Cape Breton, where patients are expected to wait for 5 and a half months.

Todd Leader, author and consultant on mental health and addictions, said solving the chronic problem of waiting time requires a general overhaul of the system.

People should not have to wait until they are in crisis to get help, he said. He said.

  Todd Leader

Todd Leader, who has studied mental health waiting times in Nova Scotia, says correcting the problem requires a general overhaul of how we view mental health. (Emma Smith / CBC)

"We draw a line and say 'Sorry, you do not qualify', but the result is that we end up, as in Cape Breton now, with too many young people who are at a point where they potentially need that higher level of attention, "he said.

Leader said that many problems that young people experience in mental health and addictions can be prevented if they are detected early.

If you are in trouble or considering suicide, there are places to turn to for support. You can contact the Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis Team at 902-429-8167 or the child helpline at 1-800-668-6868. The Canadian Association for the Prevention of Suicide also has information on where to find help.

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