Continued closure of Unit 9 psychiatric ward 'unacceptable,' says Green MLA

The P.E.I. government needs to do a better job providing mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Green MLA Trish Altass.

Government making plans to reopen Unit 9

Islanders need to know what the plan is for the psychiatric unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital says Trish Altass. (CBC)

The P.E.I. government needs to do a better job providing mental health care during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Green MLA Trish Altass.

Altass issued a news release Tuesday in response to a CBC Investigates story that looked into the closure of Unit 9, the psychiatric unit in Charlottetown's Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Psychiatric patients were sent home in March to make way for a potential influx of COVID-19 patients.

There have been no COVID-19 hospitalizations on the Island, and Unit 9 is now housing dementia patients waiting for spaces in long-term care homes. Some psychiatric services have been moved to Hillsborough Hospital.

Altass said that's not good enough.

"That Unit 9 has not been considered a priority service at this point is unacceptable," Altass told CBC News.

"Access to mental health services is a critical issue and continues to be a critical issue, even moreso now that the additional stresses of the pandemic are upon us."

It is understandable that decisions had to be made quickly in March, she said, but seven months later Health Minister James Aylward needs to be showing better leadership.

In her news release Altass referenced comments made to CBC News by Dr. Heather Keizer, chief of mental health and addictions on P.E.I. Keizer said the psychiatric group has been "urgently advocating for a reopening of psychiatric beds on Unit 9." 

"We need to know what the plan is," said Altass, "What are we going to do to improve services ... Islanders can't wait any longer."

Questions in the legislature

Altass said she first began expressing her concern about the Unit 9 closure in April, and she asked about it several times during the sitting of the legislature.

In response to one of those questions, on June 10, Aylward suggested there was no hurry to reopen the unit.

"The level of treatment that individuals are getting there is actually better than it was before because we've got more psychiatric services in one facility versus having them split between two," he said.

In response to questions for the CBC Investigates story, Aylward said he hoped to see psychiatric patients back in Unit 9 by the end of this month.

More from CBC P.E.I.


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