How an LHSC exec plans to shorten 6-day psychiatric wait times

An executive with the London Health Sciences Centre says solutions are being sought to relieve waits of up to six days for people suffering from mental illness in the region.

The VP in charge of emergency and psychiatric wait times says new beds and a youth hub will make a difference

The entrance to Victoria Hospital at the London Health Sciences Centre. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

An executive with the London Health Sciences Centre says solutions are being sought to relieve waits of up to six days for people suffering from mental illness.

The daily occupancy rate at Victoria Hospital's Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit for the holiday period reveal a system bursting at the seams: 

  • Dec. 25 – 106.5%​
  • Dec. 26 – 108.1% 
  • Dec. 27 – 116.1%
  • Dec. 28 – 121%
  • Dec. 29 – 125.8%
  • Dec. 30 – 114.5%
  • Dec. 31 – 122.6% 
  • Jan. 1 – 125.8% (equals 148 hours or 6.1 days)

Julie Trpkovski, the vice-president of Mental Health, Emergency Service and Access and Flow, told CBC's London Morning on Monday that the volume and wait times at LHSC are "not acceptable to us."

She said the hospital is working to improve the current situation and to make changes in the future.

New beds, more staff promised

Trpkovski says the addition of 24 new mental healthcare beds, promised by the province in October 2017, will help to relieve some of the pressure.

Trpkovski expects them to open by the spring, adding LHSC will also be recruiting more psychiatrists, nurses and support staff.  

She said the additional capacity will help relieve wait times but the hospital alone can't fix the problem.

Youth Hub

Trpkovski said there are other resources available in the community, including the Canadian Mental Health Association (CHMA Middlesex), which provides some crisis support.

The hospital is proposing the creation of a youth hub in partnership with Youth Opportunities Unlimited, which still requires approval from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care.

"That would help us work with youth in our community, to start to understand what are the needs and where do they actually start," said Trpkovski.

Earlier this year, the province announced it would fund nine youth hubs across Ontario on a trial basis. Four are up and running (three in the Toronto area and one in Chatham-Kent).

'No single fix'

Trpkovski said if the excessive wait times for mental health care were unique to London, "we would be very worried." 

But, she added,  the problem is occurring across the province and she's confident that health care leaders in Ontario will find effective solutions.

Trpkovski said LHSC has seen a steady increase in patients requiring mental health services in the last three years.