NDP says mental health care in Alberta among the worst; Health spokesman says no

By on February 3, 2015


EDMONTON — Alberta New Democrats say the province’s mental health care system is one of the worst in the country.

Leader Rachel Notley released a briefing note drafted by the Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services that outlines hospitals’ challenges specifically to mental health.

She says a 2009 study shows the number of mental health beds in Alberta was about half the national average.

Notley also said an all-party committee was asked to examine the issue a few years ago and, when asked for background research, “they concluded that Alberta was the only province in the country that couldn’t describe how it provided mental health services.”

A spokesman for Health Minister Stephen Mandel says the information in the briefing note is nothing new and was part of an exercise used to help in planning.

Steve Buick says there’s maintenance work and upgrades that need to get done at some hospitals, but it’s wrong to say that people aren’t getting good care.

“People get good care in our facilities here in Edmonton and across the province and they get good care in mental health particularly,” Buick said Monday.

The briefing note says at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, the risks include clinics that are difficult to manage and patients with developmental disabilities are being admitted into the general population.

It says the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital’s facilities for child and adolescent mental health are housed in a small, poor quality space with safety risks and no access to secure doors.

The document also says the Grey Nuns Hospital has major capacity issues, and three patients with serious psychiatric problems are housed in the same room, while psychiatry for children, adolescents and adults at the Royal Alexandra Hospital are all sub-standard spaces that present risk to patients and staff.

It shows more mental health services are needed at the Sturgeon Community Hospital.

Notley says not only are there not enough beds, but patients and front-line workers are at risk.

“At the end of the day, it’s about ensuring that we can provide the care that these Albertans need. It’s about the staff but it’s about these folks that really need that kind of secure care so that they can get better and their condition can be stabilized. And that’s what we’re not doing well.”