A Moncton doctor says New Brunswick needs an emergency room dedicated to those suffering from mental health issues, a parallel system to the one treating physical ailments.
Dr. Dinesh Bhalla, a psychiatrist at The Moncton Hospital, was responding to a call for more services from Mandy Bassermann, whose brother committed suicide in June.
Basserman's brother, 30-year-old Adam Lloyd from Riverview, had struggled with depression for years. A few weeks before he took his own life, Lloyd went to the hospital in crisis on a Friday, according to Basserman.
She says her brother said he was told he could stay in the hospital and get medication, but a psychiatrist or therapist would not be in on the weekend. She says for that reason he left.
"The government has to recognize that mental illness doesn't operate on a 9-5 schedule, five days a week," said Bassermann.
Bhalla says he can't comment on specific cases, but currently, if someone shows up at the emergency and is suicidal, the patient is assessed first by a triage nurse, who handles everyone who walks through the door.
Then, between 7 a.m. and midnight a mental health nurse is on duty, or the emergency room physician is on hand around the clock. If, following an assessment, the nurse or doctor feel it is necessary, an on-call psychiatrist can be brought in, he says.
Bhalla does agree with Basserman that an emergency room service dedicated solely to mental health admissions would be beneficial to the province.
He says it would provide easier and quicker access for patients in crisis.
"It would also remove some of the social stigma associated with having a mental illness and seeking help for it," said Bhalla.
He says patients are very aware when they're in the waiting room and there are people with physical injuries, such as a broken leg or chest pain.
"The social stigma element gets removed so they are able to access those services privately without having to go through without sitting in the triage, having their name being called," he said.
Bhalla is also calling for improved services in rural communities.
"The province must also create more outreach services for those in remote corners of New Brunswick who can't access services in urban centres" said Bhalla.
The suicide rate has remained the same for the past three decades in New Brunswick at about 100 deaths per year.