London

London hospital hiring five new psychiatrists, new health minister says

Five new psychiatrists and a nurse practitioner are being hired to staff new mental health beds at the London Health Sciences Centre, the province's new minister of health says.

In October, the province announced funding for 24 new beds for the London Health Sciences Centre

The entrance to Victoria Hospital at the London Health Sciences Centre. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

Five new psychiatrists and a nurse practitioner are being hired to staff 24 new mental health beds at the London Health Sciences Centre, the province's new minister of health says. 

Minister of Health Helena Jaczek was responding to a question Tuesday by London West MPP Peggy Sattler, who was asking about 10 new beds coming to the LHSC this week, as reported by CBC News. 

"There are mental health patients lining the emergency room hallway on a daily basis, waiting for a bed," Sattler said in the legislature. "It's gotten so bad that people in mental health crisis, who should be in hospital, won't go to the ER for the help they need." 

Psychiatrists at Victoria Hospital were told last week that new beds would be opening this week, with more later in March. 

In October, the province announced funding for 24 new mental health beds. 

But one psychiatrist sounded the alarm, saying the doctors at Victoria Hospital's adult in-patient unit are already overworked, seeing nine to 12 patients a day when six is an optimum number. As a result, psychiatrists aren't able to give patients the care they need, the psychiatrist said. 

Funding for extra staff there all along

The doctor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals at work, said the LHSC has a reputation as being a negative place to work, making recruitment very difficult. 

Meantime, funding for the new psychiatrists came when the new beds were announced, said Laura Gallant, the Minister of Health's press secretary. 

"The Ministry is confident in London Health Sciences' ongoing work to develop a staffing plan for the new mental health beds the government is investing in," Gallant said in a statement.

"We have not received any requests for additional resources from the hospital or the LHIN, but will continue to support our local health partners in increasing access to mental health care for patients in need," Gallant said. 

LHSC silent about staff, beds

CBC News has repeatedly reached out to the LHSC with questions about the new beds, when they will open, and how they will be staffed. 

Members of the communications department at the LHSC declined to answer questions on Friday and Monday, sending a statement that read "we have no additional information to share at this point as LHSC is still finalizing the details of the beds." 

They responded to emailed questions and two phone calls late Tuesday evening, saying they are working to get CBC News more information on Wednesday. 

Here are some of the questions CBC News asked on Friday and Monday: 

  • How many mental health beds will be opened this week? 
  • Are those beds part of the 24 that were announced in October? 
  • Will 10 beds in a mental health overflow area known as the annex be closed when new beds open? 
  • Where will the new beds be located? 
  • Will other staff, such as social workers and occupational therapists, be hired for the new beds? 
  • When will the public get the details about the beds that LHSC is still finalizing? 

On Tuesday, after the exchange at Queen's Park between Sattler and the health minister, CBC News sent LHSC communications staff a transcript of the exchange and asked: 

  • When will the five psychiatrists and one nurse practitioner be hired? 
  • Have those jobs been posted yet? 
  • For which location are these psychiatrists being hired (Victoria Hospital or elsewhere at LHSC). 

CBC News has not heard back from the London Health Sciences Centre. 

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