Opposition urges province to uphold commitment for in-patient youth mental health unit

The Opposition wants the P.E.I. government to keep its 2014 commitment to open a 12-bed in-patient unit to treat young people with mental health problems.

On Wednesday, health and wellness standing committee heard plans for a residential facility were quashed

The Department of Health and Wellness says it's providing more staff to enhance youth mental health services at the QEH. (Denise Davy/CBC)

The Opposition wants the P.E.I. government to keep its 2014 commitment to open a new 12-bed in-patient unit to treat young people with mental health problems.

First announced by the Liberals in Oct. 2014, the development of the facility was also part of Premier Wade MacLauchlan's health platform in last May's provincial election campaign.

On Wednesday, Health PEI told the legislature's standing committee on health and wellness a location for the unit had been identified, but it couldn't be developed with the budget provided by government.

So what was supposed to be an in-patient unit became a day-treatment facility instead.

"And I guess I would ask the question, if government was prepared to go out with much fanfare, I might add, and make this announcement, where was the research?" said Opposition health critic James Aylward.

"They should have known before they made this announcement where these 12 beds were going to be housed and how it was going to work."

Health PEI confirmed Wednesday that overflow from four youth mental health in-patient beds at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital continue to be sent to the pediatric ward.

That's proof a new in-patient facility is needed, said Aylward.

Up to $600K to renovate hospital wing

Health PEI had considered renovating part of Hillsborough Hospital in Charlottetown to create a youth in-patient wing, but the cost of the work would have exceeded what was affordable or reasonable to renovate an older building, director of mental health and addictions Verna Ryan told CBC News after the meeting Wednesday.

The treasury board had authorized somewhere between $500,000 and $600,000 for the project, she said.

Ryan had explained to the committee that when it was clear the in-patient facility would not be coming to fruition, Health PEI decided to opt for a youth day treatment unit in Charlottetown.

Opposition health critic James Aylward is asking the province to keep its commitment to open a 12-bed in-patient unit for youth with mental health issues. (CBC)

She also told the committee Health PEI wasn't sure it could secure the psychiatrist hours it would require for staffing, further hindering the project.

Meanwhile, P.E.I.'s Department of Health and Wellness told CBC News in a written statement Wednesday that it's providing more staff to enhance mental health services for children and youth at the QEH.

"New staff will include nurses, a child psychologist, youth workers, social workers and LPNs," the department said in the statement.

"We expect that with the new supports, their hospital stay will be shorter and their chance of being readmitted will be lower."

The province will add more beds if necessary, said Hughes.


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