New Brunswick

Campbellton mayor, MP confident psychiatric hospital can solve its problems

Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin and other northern politicians are rallying around the Restigouche Hospital Centre after a troubling report about the treatment of some patients there.

City council questions Vitalité Health Network CEO at meeting

Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin listens as Vitalité Health Network CEO Gilles Lanteigne speaks to council this week. (Radio Canada)

Campbellton Mayor Stephanie Anglehart-Paulin and other northern politicians are rallying around the Restigouche Hospital Centre after a troubling report about the treatment of some patients there.

Anglehart-Paulin said she's confident any problems with the operation of the psychiatric hospital can be solved. 

In an interview Tuesday, she also said a youth psychiatric centre going up next door should open as planned, despite calls for moving it to another part of the province.

The mayor's comments came after Vitalité Health Network CEO Gilles Lanteigne and Restigouche staff appeared before city councillors Monday night to address concerns about the hospital.

"Closing that centre would not even be considered in our community," Anglehart-Paulin said. "I couldn't imagine our city without this hospital. It's been a staple of our community forever."  

Anglehart-Paulin says she is confident Vitalité Health Network will resolve and fix issues at the Restigouche Hospital Centre. (Radio Canada)

The hospital, which serves patients from all over New Brunswick, has come under close scrutiny from provincial ombud Charles Murray, who said in a report last week that vulnerable patients had been mistreated.

​Two days after his report, titled Failure to Protect, described a "crisis" at the hospital, a 38-year-old patient died.

Murray called for major changes in the way the hospital operates and suggested the youth mental health centre now under construction not be opened. 

"My council, who get the questions as well, were able to ask their questions," Anglehart-Paulin said of the public appearance at council on Monday by officials from the hospital and Vitalité, the health network that oversees it. 

Changes take time

The mayor said she understands the centre has problems but believes it needs time to make the transition from being an institution with locked doors to a centre of excellence. 

The new youth mental centre being built adjacent to the Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton is 90 per cent complete. (Radio Canada)

"We've all heard stories, but I mean, what you hear and what is true a lot of times is 'I told someone, who told someone, who told someone,' so the stories get pretty big in these small comunities." 

Anglehart-Paulin said she was not disputing what was in the ombud's report and agreed Murray's findings should have been made public. 

"As a mother of a son with mental illness, I'd be the first one to advocate trying to teach them different ways instead of the old way of institutionalizing and throwing away the key, basically." 

This is why having the new youth centre at Restigouche is important to her. 

"The family suffers as well, and this facility is going to allow the families to come in and get the treatment as well." 

Specialization for Campbellton

Madawaska-Restigouche MP René Arseneault attended the meeting to hear from Lanteigne himself and express his concerns about politicizing the issues. (Radio Canada)

Madawaska-Restigouche MP René Arseneault attended the council meeting to hear what Lanteigne, the Vitalité CEO, had to say and ask some questions himself. 

"No doubt that the competence is here, and what New Brunswickers have to realize is that psychiatry in Campbellton is the equivalent of what is the cardiology [specialty] in Saint John, cancer [specialty] in Moncton." 

While the contemporary version of the Restigouche hospital opened in 2015, Arseneault said the institution has been in Campbellton since 1954.

"So we have to talk about that, the construction of the new unit, it's not there for nothing." 

On Monday, former child and youth advocate Bernard Richard said the youth centre shouldn't have been built in Campbellton, something he recommended in 2015 when the project was announced. 

The new Restigouche Hospital Centre opened in 2015, although a psychiatric hospital has been in Campbellton since 1954. (Radio Canada)

The youth centre is already 90 per cent complete and will house youth mental health patients adjacent to the Restigouche Hospital Centre, where adult psychiatric patients are housed.

Arseneault said criticism of the choice of Campbellton as a site for the youth centre is political.

"This institution was there since '54. So if they move it to Moncton, where it never existed, that's not political?" 

In response to concerns about a lack of staff for the adult and youth centres, Arseneault said staffing is a problem at hospitals all over the province, not just in the north.  

He pointed to Moncton Hospital, where the emergency room has experienced a partial closing at times because of a lack of resources.

"So did any politician [think] we should move Moncton Hospital elsewhere? No."

With files from Serge Bouchard