The Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow may not see the return of its eight-bed inpatient mental health unit that was axed in August due to staffing shortages.

At a meeting of the legislature's public accounts committee on Wednesday morning, health officials said a review of the distribution of mental health beds in the province is underway.

But they pointed out there are no guarantees the mental health unit at the Aberdeen will reopen.

"You need a high level, inter-disciplinary mental health team," said Janet Knox, president and CEO of the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

"There will be fewer sites around the province because if you put it everywhere you compromise the comprehensive service."

Since Aug.18, people in the New Glasgow area who need to be admitted for mental health care have been directed to Truro or Antigonish, although there are reports of some having to go to Sydney or Yarmouth.

Aberdeen hospital mental health unit

Families and patients protest the closure of the mental health unit at the Aberdeen hospital in New Glasgow. (CBC)

Health officials insist care is better than when the Aberdeen unit was open because of new supports created within the community.

"There are better services being provided at the moment because in the past people were admitted unnecessarily," said Dr. Linda Courey, senior director of mental health and addictions for the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

But opposition MLAs are unconvinced.

"People are really suffering to get the help they need when they need it," said Tim Houston, the MLA for Pictou East. "It terrifies me that there are people sitting in offices in Halifax that think everything is just fine."

"This is not the mental health system that we need to respond to people in the province," said Maureen MacDonald, interim NDP leader.

Currently there are 234 non-forensic mental health beds across Nova Scotia, including 14 in Colchester, 28 in the western zone and 56 in the eastern zone.