Province pledges $3M to Guelph, Wellington hospitals for emergency mental health services

Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced the province will provide Guelph and Wellington county hospitals with $3 million to improve emergency mental health care.

Funding will improve access to care, reduce wait times, says Health Minister Eric Hoskins

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced $3 million in funding to expand emergency mental health services at hospitals in Guelph and Wellington county. (CBC News)

The province will be giving hospitals in Guelph and Wellington county more than $3 million to expand emergency mental health services.

The funding will improve access to care and reduce wait times, Health Minister Eric Hoskins said during an announcement Thursday in Guelph. For example, the funding will help at Guelph General Hospital is that a mental health nurse will now be on duty 24 hours a day.

"People struggling with mental health challenges deserve access to services in the same way that someone with a broken leg would receive care," Hoskins said. "The brave and compassionate people in our hospitals, and our community health organizations, also deserve to feel safe and supported by their government."

Man shot in Guelph ER

Guelph General will receive $2,416,300 for emergency health funding. Groves Memorial in Fergus will get $326,100, and so will North Wellington Health Care Corporation, which includes Palmerston and District Hospital and Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest.

We've come a long way since that time and we've improved in a lot of areas, but we still have a way to go.- Marianne Walker, Guelph General Hospital president and CEO

During his announcement, Hoskins reflected on the shooting death of Brandon Scott Duncan. He was shot by police in the emergency department of Guelph General Hospital on May 20, 2015. The 36-year-old was seen brandishing scissors, he grabbed a woman and tried to jab her, then he began advancing on officers when he was shot.

"No one can undo what happened," Hoskins said. "But what followed that tragic event was pretty remarkable. The community here rallied together, as a united front, and came up with a plan to make changes so that tragedies like the death of Brandon Duncan wouldn't happen again."

Increase in mental health crisis locally

Guelph MP and Treasury Board President Liz Sandals said she often receives calls, not just from hospitals, but from police and social service providers that more needs to be done for those who need mental health support.

She said Guelph and Wellington County have a higher rate of cases than other areas within the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network.
A police officer stands outside Guelph General Hospital on May 20, 2015, following a fatal shooting in the emergency room. Brandon Scott Duncan died in that confrontation with police. (Kate Bueckert/CBC News)

"Everyone's seen an increase in mental health crisis in their emergency rooms," she said.

A "serious increase in drug use" often means when people are in crisis, they also become violent, said Sandals.

'We still have a way to go'

Guelph General Hospital president and CEO Marianne Walker said the funding will help them treat mental health patients more quickly while also keeping staff and physicians safe.

Along with an on-duty mental health nurse 24-hours a day, seven days a week, the hospital will be adding addictions counsellors and will be implementing a new intake system where patients who need mental health care will be seen more quickly by the appropriate staff.

As well, she said, their safe rooms are almost ready to go. Those rooms will have smooth walls and heavy furniture to prevent patients from self harming themselves.

"We've come a long way since that time and we've improved in a lot of areas, but we still have a way to go," Walker said of changes implemented in the last year since Duncan's death. "We're going to continue the good work that's been going on for the last several months."