IWK mental health doctors insist no one is being turned away
Four days after a troubled 14-year-old girl ended up at the police station after trying to get help at Halifax’s IWK Health Centre, doctors there are speaking out to defend the hospital’s practices.
Dr. Ruth Carter, who runs the IWK’s mental health program, on Thursday said doctors there are not up against a shortage of resources preventing them from taking in patients.
“We have enough resources to cover our emergency department in terms of clinical staff and in terms of psychiatric staff,” Dr. Carter said.
Since the news broke earlier this week of a teenage girl being twice denied hospital admission for mental health treatment, four more families have come forward to CTV News saying their children were also denied admittance when they felt it was necessary.
But IWK doctors maintain that everyone who needs to be admitted is.
“Every patient that comes into the emergency department assessed by Mental Health and Addictions has a full comprehensive assessment to try and determine whether that individual requires admission to hospital or another form of treatment,” said Dr. Sabina Abidi, the hospital’s acting chief of psychiatry.
Dr. Carter concurs.
“I'm confident that we are making really good decisions in our emergency department,” she said.
Dr. Abidi says it’s not always in the patient’s best interest to be admitted, a move usually reserved for patients experiencing severe mental illness.
For example, she said, grounds for admittance could include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or any illness that might present a risk to the patient or others.
Despite the number of people coming forward saying there are gaps in the system, Dr. Carter maintains this isn’t the case at the IWK.
“I'm not sure that the people who are seeking services are actually being matched up with the right service,” Dr. Carter said.
She says she hopes more awareness will help people understand where to go for the help they need.
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine says he is looking into improving mental health support for young people in response to this week’s developments.
He said he would like to know if changes to the patient triage system are needed.
Glavine also said he plans to meet with Dr. Stan Kutcher, an expert in teen mental health at the IWK Health Centre.
"I want to see the strongest mental health support for our adolescent and early adult population, where there do seem to be gaps in the system," Glavine said.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell