An organization that helps those dealing with eating disorders in the province said people like Carla Lamb, the Clarenville woman who sought help in an emergency department last week and was turned away, shows the need for an in-patient unit.
Lamb, who has a serious eating disorder, was told by an ER nurse in Clarenville to 'get something to eat' and return to the emergency department if she didn't feel better. She has since called on Eastern Health to put more emergency mental-health services in the region.
Vince Withers, chair of the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, said he felt 'discouraged and disappointed' when he heard about Lamb's story.
"That young woman had at least two or three opportunities to make her presence felt in the health care system, and we failed her," said Withers.
"Saying 'go and get something to eat,' it's just beyond my understanding of how we could be doing these kinds of things. I heard somebody comment that 'She [Lamb] fell between the cracks.' I don't know how we can use that kind of a comment in 2014. She tried several areas of the health care system to get help and she was turned back each time."
Withers founded the eating disorder foundation with his wife, after their daughter, Renata Withers, died of anorexia nervosa in 2005. She was 27.
"We should be beyond this type of insensitivity.Once she [Lamb] announced she had an eating disorder — it's pretty obvious that food was an issue — that was the first insensitive thing to do. She required in-patient care and they weren't smart enough to even look at the basic understanding of this young woman."
'Saying 'go and get something to eat,' it's just beyond my understanding of how we could be doing these kinds of things'- Vince Withers, chair of the Eating Disorder Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador
Withers said he was quite familiar with Lamb's experience in the emergency department.
"We spent a lot of time in the emergency ward when our daughter was ill. I don't know how many times we asked for our daughter to be admitted as an in-patient. There's no place for them to go ... they can end up in the psych unit, the medical ward where they're looked after, but there's not a treatment process there."
Withers said he has submitted a comprehensive proposal for an in-patient unit to the Department of Health.
"So we wanted to have a six-bed unit, that would be intensive care. You could spend the day there if you had to, you could be overnight there."
There is an eating disorders outpatient facility on Major's Path in St. John's.