More mental health support needed at London hospitals, patients tell officials

Nearly 100 Londoners gathered at the Hellenic Community Centre on Tuesday to give their feedback on how health care and patient experiences can be improved at the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC). 

Victoria and University hospitals are planning to revamp health care for a rapidly growing London

From left to right: Jeannie Gheller, Kellysue McNeil, and Darrell McNeil at London's Hellenic Community Centre.
From left to right: Jeannie Gheller, Kellysue McNeil and Darrell McNeil attended LHSC's community conversation to share their challenges with a burdened health-care system. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)

The region's largest hospital has to put more focus on mental health supports for patients and their families, Londoners told officials who run the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), which includes Victoria and University hospitals. 

Nearly 100 Londoners gathered at the Hellenic Community Centre on Tuesday to give their feedback on how health care and patient experiences can be improved. 

"We're here to serve our communities and we're accountable to them, so a conversation is a really important opportunity to hear firsthand from individuals directly," said Jackie Schleifer Taylor, the hospital network's president and CEO.

The conversation is part of the hospital's master plan to conduct more research on how to better meet the needs of London's growing and evolving population, through a planning grant from Ontario's Ministry of Health.

The session divided members into two groups where they discussed issues pertaining to accessibility to care, along with what's working well and what needs to change. 

"What a better time [to do this] after three years of a pandemic and a health system that has learned through that pandemic that there are opportunities to improve," Schleifer Taylor said. 

'Systems are severely broken'

Community input is necessary to make changes to the health care system, said Kellysue McNeil, an attendant who's faced many challenges in getting her children the treatments they need. 

"If we don't speak up and come together as a community, things are not going to change and the change has to happen yesterday," she said. "There are systems that are severely broken."

McNeil says she's experienced both sides of the spectrum of a strained system at LHSC.

On one hand her daughter who had an undiagnosed mental illness was severely mistreated within the hospital, but her now-quadriplegic son's life was also saved by compassionate and detailed physicians at LHSC, she said. 

She said her family's concerns were heard with empathy, showing the initiative LHSC is taking to drive positive change.

"The hospital is the fallback for everything when things go wrong or other doors are closed," Darrel said. "It's unfortunate but that's the reality of what they're dealing with and they're just trying to make it the best scenario for everybody even when they're not equipped."

"Their hands are unfortunately very tied with the government who keeps reducing funding and supports, and we need to get the government behind them," McNeil added.

On Feb. 23, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that provinces will receive $46 billion in health care funding over 10 years. 

More parental supports needed

LHSC's president and CEO, Jackie Schleifer Taylor giving her opening remarks to an audience at the community conversation
Jackie Schleifer Taylor, LHSC's president and CEO, giving her opening remarks at the community conversation at the Hellenic Centre on Feb. 28. (Isha Bhargava/CBC News)

Jeannie Gheller's 18-year-old daughter Mikayla has been in and out of the hospital for two years for her severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, which causes her to self harm. There is no facility in Ontario available to treat her situation. 

"It's not the hospital's fault, it's absolutely the system's fault," Gheller said. "Today, my daughter's sitting in the pediatric ICU in isolation because her intrusive thoughts are so bad that if she gets released, she's at risk."

Mikayla's condition has taken a toll on Gheller, who says she hasn't worked in over a year because fighting for her daughter's health while no one else will is a priority. 

Gheller recommended that more supports be provided to parents caring for children with complex needs and disabilities because it can feel like an uphill battle with nowhere to go. 

McNeil's husband Darrell said he believes patient outcomes can be improved by consulting individuals and families with lived experiences who can offer different perspectives to a situation.

"Health care professionals are really good at analyzing issues from a clinical standpoint but what gets forgotten is the human side of things, and the emotional side of what patients or family members are dealing with on top of the issue that brings them to the hospital," he said.

Schleifer Taylor said she's optimistic to see the community engaged in revamping LHSC, and the feedback received will be circulated to all staff at the hospital to find ways to turn it into action. 


Isha Bhargava is a multiplatform reporter for CBC News. She's worked for Ontario newsrooms in Toronto and London. She loves telling current affairs and human interest stories. You can reach her at