“Saskatchewan’s registered nurses welcome this announcement,” says SUN President, Tracy Zambory. “When it comes to mental health and addictions we need bold action – we need to chart a new path that recognizes mental illness for what it is; a long-term, public health battle that will require innovative ideas, persistence, investment and political will. This is most definitely a move in the right direction.”
This is an important step towards improving access to the essential care our province’s mental health and addictions patients need.
It can happen to anyone, at any time. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, by the age of 40, about 50 per cent of the population will have had some experience with a mental health issue.
One in five people will suffer a mental health issue this year and up until now, knowing where to go during a crisis has been a struggle for families in Saskatoon.
“Approximately 15 people a day on average are coming to the Royal University Hospital (RUH) emergency department for mental health and addiction related support,” said Tracy Muggli, director of mental health and addictions services with the Saskatoon Heath Region.
An estimated 5,000 patients visit RUH’s emergency department (ED) suffering from these types of issues each year. Another 4,000 patients go to either Saskatoon City Hospital or St. Paul’s Hospital emergency departments.
“When patients come in who are already under a great deal of distress – we know that an environment that’s very busy and noise only further makes things difficult for them,” Marilyn Baetz, head of psychiatry at the University of Saskatchewan, said.
Come next year, families and individuals will no longer have to second guess where to go for help.
Renovations on a new temporary mental health assessment unit stationed next to RUH’s emergency department will start in two weeks’ time.
It will be an appropriate, safe space where up to seven patients can receive care.
“Currently the way our ED is set up – is rooms with stretchers and curtained areas and it doesn’t provide a safe interview space for mental health clients,” SHR emergency services director Graham Blue said.
By diverting these patients, pressures on the entire health care system should be alleviated.
According to Baetz, by getting the right care to these patients at the right time the better a patient’s health outcome should be both short- and long-term.
Danielle Chartier, the NDP health critic, applauded this decision after calling on the provincial government to do more for mental health patients in the region in late September.
“I’m really glad this government has finally moved on this, they could have moved on it months ago, this could have already been up and running,” Chartier said.
“I’m really grateful to all the families and patients who have spoken out about the need for this assessment unit – a big thanks goes to them for putting the pressure on to make this happen.”
In late 2019 when the new children’s hospital is complete, the unit will be moved to a more permanent space at that facility’s adult emergency department.