A mental health advocate is calling for a second psychiatrist to be assigned to Her Majesty's Penitentiary to give prisoners there a choice in the type of medical care they get.

Mark Gruchy, a lawyer and co-chair of the Community Coalition for Mental Health, made the comment Wednesday in response to an article written by prison psychiatrist, Dr. David Craig.

Craig wrote in the Canadian Journal of Addiction about his approach to prescription drugs, defending his practice of removing most psychotropic medications which he felt were over-used.

He argued that his approach had improved the well-being of prisoners, and said a peer review showed he met the standards of care.

Dr. David Craig hmp

Dr. David Craig called his approach to treating inmates at Her Majesty's Penitentiary "Swimming against the Tide." (CBC)

"Dr. Craig's practices might be professionally acceptable, but it's a question of choice and consent. People in prison don't have any choice," said Gruchy.

"He is dealing with a captive, literally, population of patients who have no other choice but to deal with him and his different views, and he's also dealing with people who are transient patients....they are literally passing through in a number of months, or days in some cases."

Gruchy said most defence lawyers have encountered clients who had problems because of Craig's approach.

"These are people who are on regimes and end up in prison for a few months and are suddenly off their regime, as a component of what he sees as a 'mission.' He has to do this is how he put it in the article.  Now what benefit does this serve when a person is back on the street?"

Her Majesty's Penitentiary

Her Majesty's Penitentiary is a place where prisoners can't switch doctors if they don't like the treatment, says Mark Gruchy (CBC)

There's no continuity of care, said Gruchy, and it is causing misery.

"What is the role really of an institutional physician who is going to have brief and limited access to a patient? Is the role to substitute a dramatically varying opinion than the physician who treats them normally or is the role to provide some continuity of care?"

Gruchy said there are many problems at the penitentiary, including the age of the building and a lack of services.

He called on the new Liberal government to expand mental health services by hiring a second doctor.

"Which would then in theory give inmates some choice in what kind of model they would like to be treated under."

"I'm not making any aspersions whatsoever about his [Craig's] professional competence. It's just that people normally have some choice in what kind of medical practitioner they engage with."