New Brunswick

Restigouche Hospital Centre safe for patients, says Vitalité

Despite a damning report from the New Brunswick ombud and a recent death at the hospital, the CEO of the Vitalité Health Network says the Restigouche Hospital Centre is safe.

Lobby group blames Vitalité CEO for problems the provincial ombud found at psychiatric hospital

Vitalité Health Network CEO Gilles Lanteigne says the Restiouche psychiatric hospital is staffed above levels required to make sure patients are safe. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Despite a damning report from the New Brunswick ombud and a recent death at the hospital, the CEO of the Vitalité Health Network says the Restigouche Hospital Centre is safe.

The psychiatric centre in Campbellton has always been staffed above levels required for patient safety, Gilles Lanteigne said Tuesday, although he suggested it could use more staff for its rehabilitation role.

Later in the day, a lobby group blamed Langeigne's centralized management system for problems at Restigouche and other Vitalité hospitals.  

Égalité Santé en Français called for a change in the Vitalité structure to fix problems identified by provincial ombud Charles Murray in a report last week about the psychiatric hospital.

Murray said vulnerable patients, who come from all parts of New Brunswick, had been mistreated.

His report also spoke about "chronic understaffing" at the hospital, which has left employees unable to do training and "curtailed management's capacity to discipline or correct staff."

Two days after Murray's report, a 38-year-old patient died.

Lanteigne said members of the management team were on hand Saturday to speak with concerned family members of patients. Additional staff also came in to help colleagues who, as a result of Murray's report, started remembering other incidents at the hospital, he said.

 "It was an unfortunate situation for us," Lanteigne said.

Vitalité ordered reports

Lanteigne said an action plan was drawn up to change the culture at the hospital in Campbellton. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

Lanteigne said Vitalité was aware of problems after the hospital opened in 2015, which is why the network ordered two reports about it in 2017.

Vitalité drew up an "action plan" based on the reports to help change the culture at the centre.

"A culture where you're really trying to support staff in order to acquire the abilities and the knowledge they need to do rehabilitation work with patients," said Lanteigne 

Murray said in his report that his office considered ending its investigation, but after Vitalité's reports, "progress appeared to be slow," so the ombud picked up the pace. 

Death unexpected

Both Murray and the province’s former child and youth advocate Bernard Richard have said an almost completed youth psychiatric centre at Restigouche should be moved. (Nicolas Steinbach/Radio-Canada)

Lanteigne called the death of the patient on Saturday "unexpected" but would not discuss the cause or circumstances.

Vitalité and the RCMP are investigating the death.

Both Murray and the province's former child and youth advocate, Bernard Richard, have said an almost completed youth centre at Restigouche should be moved, and Health Minister Ted Flemming has already delayed the opening, originally scheduled for the end of this year.

Lanteigne said Vitalité is still moving forward with the psychiatric centre for youth.

"Construction is continuing and we're certainly in there providing services and continuing to do so until there is a change in orientation," said Lanteigne.

Network too centralized, group says

Lobby group Égalité Santé en Français ​said it believes the management structure implemented by Lanteigne when he became CEO is the root of problems with the health network.

Dr. Hubert Dupuis, president of Égalité Santé en Français, said the situation in the Restigouche Hospital Centre is just an example of how Vitalité's centralization of management has caused what he calls "a crisis of health care services."

Dr. Hubert Dupuis, president of Égalité Santé en Français, said Vitalité is under a 'crisis of health care services.' (CBC)

Dupuis listed 12 examples of issues across the province, including a shortage of staff in the Chaleur Regional Hospital obstetrics unit, a shortage of emergency physicians in Caraquet and the overcrowding of emergency rooms at most hospitals.

The group is renewing calls for a decentralization of management to allow for power of decision making at the hospital level.

Dupuis said the way management is centralized now, staff at the local levels do not know whom to go to if they have problems.

He said the changes brought by Lanteigne have been a failure.

"It's his administrative structure, this was supposed to be better than sliced bread when he came in."

Lanteigne said claims of a health-services crisis by Égalité Santé en Français are unfounded.

"We're more than satisfied that we put in place the best structure," Lanteigne said.

New Brunswick ombudsman Charles Murray said his assessment is that there was never enough clinical psychiatric experience acquired at the Restigouche centre but said his report focused on patient care, not administrative structure.

"The problem is from the top down," Murray said.

With files from Information Morning Moncton, Gabrielle Fahmy