Nova Scotia

Mental-health wait longer in Dartmouth

People needing mental-health services in Dartmouth are waiting longer to see a community team than others around the Halifax Regional Municipality.

People needing mental-health services in Dartmouth are waiting longer to see a community team than others around the Halifax Regional Municipality.

The region has five teams that provide care outside of a hospital. They are supposed to see patients deemed urgent cases within a week, semi-urgent cases within a month and regular referrals within three months.

But the Dartmouth team has missed most of its targets for waiting times since January 2010.

In July 2010, the average waiting period for an urgent case was three weeks. More than 300 people were on the list by the fall.

Cheryl Billard, who oversees the region's teams, said Dartmouth has been hit with staffing problems and an overload of cases.

"Working harder, working faster was not getting us anywhere," she told CBC News.

Billard said the team has changed the way it handles cases. With wait times still high and no change in referrals, staff now spend less time assessing patients and more time treating them.

"Often people would go back to their family physician and say, 'Well, that wasn't very helpful,' or 'I was asked a lot of questions but I'm not sure it helped me today,'" said Billard.

The changes are a "huge quantum leap" forward, she said.

"We have approximately 100 people waiting to be seen. It's quite different than the … 200 and 300 that were showing up on the reports.

"So we are making gains. It's just going to take them a little bit of time to run this through."

Billard said people in Dartmouth will continue to wait longer than others until the backlog of cases eases.

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