Saskatoon·Video

Mother says son in mental health crisis forced to stay in a 'cell' at Saskatoon ER

Lucy Mauerhoff says her son's experience as a mental health patient at a Saskatoon emergency room was "excruciating" and "terrible."

Man with obsessive compulsive disorder who needed admission to Dubé Centre ended up in cell-like room

Lucy Mauerhoff says her son's experience as a mental health patient at a Saskatoon emergency room was 'excruciating' and 'terrible.'

Lucy Mauerhoff says her son's experience as a mental health patient at a Saskatoon emergency room was "excruciating" and "terrible."

Her son has obsessive compulsive disorder and last month had an episode where he became extremely anxious and confused. They went to the emergency room at Royal University Hospital.  

When a psychiatrist decided her son needed to be admitted into the Dubé Centre, the in-patient mental health centre at the hospital, there were no beds available so her son was put in cell-like room at the emergency department. 

He was in the room for two days. 

"He's a grown man sobbing, 'Get me out of here, get me out of here.' He would say 'Mom, I'm going crazier in here. I'm getting sicker in here,'" she said.

The room, she said, looked more like a jail cell than a hospital room. There was a guard at the door of the locked room. The bed was bolted to the floor and so was the exposed toilet. She said there was no toilet paper and there were dents in the walls from where people had tried to kick the door in. 

"Every time they brought him his food, he was so shaky he would spill things. The floor was covered in apple juice, his bed was full of milk. It was awful," she said. 

Emergency mental health unit on hold indefinitely 

Mauerhoff doesn't fault the nurses or workers at the ER. They are just working with what they have, she said. But she says it pains her to know things could have been different if the province had invested in an emergency ward dedicated to mental health and addictions patients. 

Last month CBC News found out that despite a million-dollar donation and fundraising, a new mental health assessment and short stay unit at RUH is still in limbo and there is no guarantee it will ever open at all. 

A provincial spokesperson said the government cannot comment on policy issues because of the Saskatoon Fairview byelection in September. 

Lucy Mauerhoff says her son's experience as a mental health patient at a Saskatoon emergency room was "excruciating" and "terrible." 2:16

But at the time of the initial report, the government said even though the donation covered the cost of building the new wing, there were no operating funds to hire nurses to staff it. 

Mauerhoff says it's shameful the government could not come up with the money.

"Let me tell you, if Brad Wall or Mr. Reiter had a son [put] into that cell for a day, things would change," Mauerhoff said.

"This is like a third world country, that we treat our most vulnerable people like this."

On the brink of Wall's retirement, she says it's important to acknowledge the positive things he's done for the province, but there are gaps as well. One of them, she says, is the fact the government could not come up with the money to staff the new facility.

"This is something they've left undone," she said.

"This is something they could have done something about. It's so small in the big scheme of the things. It's so small."

Her son was eventually admitted to the Dubé Centre for three weeks. He is now back out. Thankfully, she says, he does not remember the experience.