A Saskatoon psychiatrist is speaking out over a decision to hold off on opening a mental health area at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) emergency unit.
Dr. Tamara Hinz is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who teaches at the University of Saskatchewan.
Speaking Monday on Gormley, she explained the current set-up at RUH leaves mental health patients poorly served.
“Up until now, we’ve just had these patients wait – often for several hours – in some fold-up chair in the waiting room if they’re lucky, surrounded by the normal chaos and hubbub of the emergency department.”
Hinz said that’s clearly not an ideal environment for people who may be experiencing hallucinations or suicidal thoughts. She said a proposed 7-bed unit that had been set to open this fall would have provided a more appropriate setting.
“This unit was going to be a slightly more secluded, kind of calmer area of the emergency department where people could wait and be assessed,” she said.
But Hinz said the new area has been thrown into doubt. She said money was available to build it after a $1-million donation from the Dubé family. However, the province and the health region have no budget for the staff needed to run it.
Hinz said data show about 10 per cent of mental health patients leave the RUH emergency room before seeing a doctor, or about twice the rate of regular patients.
He laid the blame at least partly on the conditions mentally ill people are forced to wait in before getting help.
“To me, that number is really scary because you have no idea, once they leave emergency without care, what that person is stepping back into,” she said.
Hinz noted she doesn’t speak for the province or the health region. Rather, she said she was speaking out based on her experiences on the front lines of mental health work in Saskatoon.
She encouraged others concerned about the issue to make their voices heard.
“I don’t feel like I have any special political pull or power, but I think the more administrators and politicians hear from us, the better,” she said.