London

Mental health bed shortage has 'taxed' staff and doctors, LHSC admits

The shortage of mental health beds at Victoria Hospital has 'taxed' staff and doctors, a London Health Sciences Centre vice-president admits.

A week after psychiatrists were told a new unit was opening for mental health patients, LHSC confirms the news

Victoria Hospital and Children's Hospital London Health Sciences Centre - LHSC Photo by/Dave Chidley (Dave Chidley)

The shortage of mental health beds at Victoria Hospital has 'taxed' staff and doctors, a London Health Sciences Centre vice-president admits. 

"The longstanding capacity challenges we have faced have taxed staff and physicians who have worked tirelessly to attempt to manage the significantly increased volume of patients who require mental health care," said Julie Trpkovski, vice president of mental health, emergency services and access and flow, in an email to CBC News.

It's the first time the LHSC has responded to growing concerns about the mental health bed crunch since CBC News first reported about a psychiatrist's concerns. 

Psychiatrists were told that new mental health beds would be opening, but were not told about staffing for the beds. 

The issue landed at Queen's Park on Tuesday, when Ontario's new health minister announced that the LHSC was hiring five psychiatrists and a nurse practitioner after pointed questions from London West NDP MPP Peggy Sattler. 

'More patients will be cared for'

The first of two new units will open after construction is completed in the coming week, said Trpkovski. 

"Our current reality is we have admitted patients in unconventional surge spaces," she wrote. "With the opening of the new unit, more patients will be cared for in purpose-designed mental health care space." 

Funding for 24 new mental health beds was announced in October. 

The LHSC admits there's a shortage of psychiatrists in Canada, but denied that it has a reputation among the doctors as being a bad place to work, making recruitment difficult. 

"We continue to be approached by candidates who are interested in coming to London," a spokesperson for the hospital wrote.

"In addition to the recruitment of psychiatrists we are continuing to recruit nursing and other health disciplines to support team-based recovery oriented care, and are moving forward with expansion of our hospital model to round out our team complement."

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