Pandemic forces P.E.I. to look for new mental health, addictions support services
New addictions transition day program in development
There are a number of new supports for Prince Edward Islanders suffering from stress during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Dr. Heather Keizer, the province's chief of mental health issues and addictions.
Dr. Heather Keizer said seven of the Island's 10 psychiatrists are set up to do virtual care, which will begin as telephone sessions with the goal of establishing a video platform as well. There will also be an additional eight psychiatrists from off-Island providing support to P.E.I. patients.
"In addition to that our non-psychiatric mental health workers are also stepping up," Keizer said.
She said the province's walk-in mental health clinics have transitioned to call-in clinics and staff are reaching out to patients.
Keizer also said there will be new supports specifically for people seeking addictions services, including the development of a new transition day program. She said the program will not be offered near hospitals. It will instead be located in facilities that allow for social distancing and will offer supports for patients who would have previously gone to the transition unit at the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility.
She said further details about the new program should be released later this week.
Patients moved, discharged
In a news briefing last Wednesday, Health PEI's chief of nursing Marion Dowling said some mental health and addictions staff and services have been shuffled around among the Unit 9 psychiatric ward at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hillsborough Hospital, and the addictions facility in Mount Herbert.
"We do recognize that was a service that was quite important to our system," Keizer said.
Keizer said a total of 57 patients were moved or discharged in four days. This allowed staff to open 20 beds at QEH to help deal with the COVID-19 crisis, she said.
"Last week we were called to respond to a need for capacity for COVID coming to Prince Edward Island," Keizer said.
She said patients who were ready to be discharged were provided with appropriate follow-up plans. Keizer said some lower-risk patients who still need some psychiatric care were moved to the beds at the transition unit at the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility.
"Understandably, people would have been surprised and it would have been hard to understand out of the gate," she said.
"My main focus has been to highlight the safety of our patients and of our staff and to give as much support as we can to our colleagues who are going to be dealing with the COVID virus itself in the next few weeks," Keizer said.
She said following chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison's guidelines around physical distancing and self isolation is a top priority, and getting patients out of the hospital who are ready to leave will help that effort.
"We need to provide as many patients the opportunity to go home to the safety of their homes with support that we can," said Keizer.
Keizer said the province has been working diligently to provide alternative care options during this unprecedented time.
She said she understands the importance of addictions services and said anyone who is ready for detox should be getting treatment, but to keep the recommendations from the chief public health office as a top priority.
"Self-isolation, if it's required because you've tested positive or you've come from out of province or out of country, that takes precedence. It is very important that you stay in self-isolation for 14 days before you seek detox services," she said.
Keizer encouraged anyone who is in self-isolation and wants to seek detox treatment to call the province's telephone mental health services.
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With files from CBC News Compass