Audio

Sudbury ER a magnet for some mentally ill, alcoholic patients: study

The emergency room at Sudbury's hospital is always busy, but a study by the Northeast Local Health Integration Network has found there are a small number of people making a large number of visits.

Local Health Integration Network study shows 10 people made almost 500 ER visits over six month period

The Northeast Local Health Integration Network is looking at ways to better help people who are repeatedly going to the Sudbury emergency room. (CBC)

The emergency room at Sudbury's hospital is always busy, but a study by the Northeast Local Health Integration Network has found there are a small number of people making a large number of visits.

The LHIN said the city needs to find a better place for these people who don’t appear to be getting the help they need.

The study showed 10 people in particular made almost 500 visits to the ER over a period of six months, Northeast LHIN CEO Louise Paquette said. The cost per visit to emergency starts at $200, she noted.

Most of these people have chronic mental health and alcohol problems, Paquette said, and the Sudbury hospital emergency room is often their first stop in getting help, as it’s open around the clock.

“Clearly, people who are going to the emergency room feel that they are in crisis and that they need help,” Paquette said.

“And you have to think about what the cost [is] to us as a society, and as Sudburians, to having people saying they need help and we're really struggling with how to help them.”

These people aren't getting the help they need at the ER, she said. That's why the LHIN is looking at the idea of a managed alcohol program — a program where alcohol is meted out in small doses to chronic users.

The LHIN is currently collecting feedback on the idea from community partners.

The executive director of the John Howard Society in Sudbury said no one has asked for his feedback yet, but he's all for the idea. John Rimore said a gradual approach that may help people who haven't succeeded in rehab, as suddenly stopping drinking doesn’t work for everyone.

“Human life is not like that,” he said. “Many people need ways and means and time to slowly and, over time, stop the behaviours that are causing their lives to go into disrepair.”

As for a recommendation on the program, Paquette said the LHIN will have one by late spring.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.