Prince Edward Islanders, especially children, are waiting too long to receive psychiatric care, say mental health workers.

Doug Currie - Custom

Health Minister Doug Currie says he is not ready to hire more psychiatrists. (CBC)

The average wait time to see a psychiatrist for P.E.I. children deemed urgent and priority cases is 49 days. Children requiring crisis response are seen immediately, but adults requiring crisis response service are waiting a week.

Peter Mutch, who manages a mental health walk-in clinic for Catholic Family Services, said delaying treatment has consequences.

"If it's someone that is at risk of harming themselves or in need of medication before they can start the therapeutic process, any delay is going to have an effect," said Mutch.

P.E.I. has 15 full-time positions for psychiatrists, with two vacancies. Dr. Robert Jay, president of the P.E.I. Psychiatric Association, told CBC News he's asked government to increase the complement to 20.

"Our numbers are well below any kind of national guideline, and it makes it very difficult to provide the level of service that we should be providing," said Jay.

Following an auditor general's report outlining troubles in the province's mental health services, the government commissioned a review. The review was delivered to government in February, and made public earlier this month.

It recommends government take immediate action to make sure it has an adequate number of psychiatrists and other regulated health professionals, but is not specific about what those numbers should be.

Health Minister Doug Currie admits access is an issue, but said there is no plan to add more psychiatrists right now. Government is developing a long-term plan for mental health. In the meantime Currie wants to find out if there are ways the current complement could be more productive.

"We also want to make sure that we're getting good value, I guess, for the number of patients that our psychiatrists are seeing," said Currie.

Health PEI has issued a request for proposals to hire a consultant to answer that question.

While the province is embarking on major changes to mental health care, Jay said local psychiatrists are feeling undervalued because they have not been consulted. Currie has responded to this complaint, saying Dr. Nadeem Dada, medical director of mental health and addictions for the province, was involved.

For mobile device users: Should the P.E.I. government hire more psychiatrists?

Service Youth Adults
Community Mental Health Wait Times (days)
Crisis response 0 7
Psychiatry 49 33
Specialized services 25 9
Therapeutic services 36 24