Psychiatrists say mental health services in crisis

Staff ~ The Telegram
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Just days before the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association's board of directors meets to mull over government's latest contract offer, psychiatrists told the media today about massive waiting lists for mental health services, especially in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
In the latest information session meant to appeal to the public, St. John's psychiatrist Dr. Cynthia?Slade, St. John's child psychiatrist Dr. Kim St. John and central psychiatrist Dr. Kris Luscombe said people aren't getting timely access to psychiatric care.
Only the most urgent and emergent patients are getting help in a timely manner.
"Patients who require immediate intervention are particularly vulnerable," said Slade.
"In some cases, their problem could have been prevented, had there been adequate psychiatric coverage and earlier contact with community psychiatrists. But instead of working with these patients one-on-one to plan ways to manage their illness, we are seeing them in times of crisis - sometimes after it's too late."
Rural Newfoundland is short about half the psychiatrists it should have and while there are enough in St. John's those doctors are having to take on patients from elsewhere.
There is no full-time psychiatrist in Labrador or the northern peninsula.
"I would compare my job to driving a rescue boat and circling a sinking passenger vessel in the North Atlantic," said Luscombe, who has a two-year waiting list for his practice in Grand Falls-Windsor.
"There are thousands of people in front of me. I see people on a sinking boat. I see people in the freezing water. I see people drowning. And my job tends to be to focus on those who are drowning. I am bothered by the fact that if I had a little help, I could also focus on stopping people from falling into the ocean to begin with."
The access to services for children and youth around the province falls way behind the rest of the country.
The Canadian Psychiatric Association recommends one child psychiatrist per 3,800 children in youth. In this province there is one child psychiatrist per 16,000.
The NLMA meets Saturday to discuss a contract offer for all doctors it received this week from the provincial government.

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, Canadian Psychiatric Association

Geographic location: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, North Atlantic Grand Falls-Windsor

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Recent comments

  • Bonnie
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    Noone wants to have a mental illness,or watch a loved one suffer from one. It is hard enough to cope with meds and triggers without doing it seperated from family.Residents from Labrador have to do just that.
    Why doesn't our government stop spending money on insignificant things,and prioritize spending.The health and welfare,education,water consuption and roads for citizens far outwieghs museums,concerts and political gains.
    If you are trying to accomplish anything while in a mental health crisis,it can become too much.For those who still believe the stigma attached to mental illness,all I can say to you is PRAY.Pray that it's not you or one of your loved ones suffering tomorrow,because it does not discriminate

  • Laney
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    No one knows the horror and lost hopeless feeling of the deep dark hole of depression, and other mental illnesses, unless they have actually gone through it. It's pure hell !
    Lives have/are lost because of no professional psychiatrist, or even a psychologist, available to them.

  • Bill
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    It would be better to take your chance with a butcher than to place your trust in the psych system in Newfoundland. More than half of the doctors treating patients need a good mental and moral over haul themselves. The lady said PRAY I agree, pray that you can keep your wits about you and not end up a mindless victim or a voiceless victim against a system that covers its abuses by blaming the patient.

  • I C Clearly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    It's about priorities - and attaining the recommended standard for health care services is low on the Williams government priority list. I wonder how stack up in # of ministerial communication officers per 1000 of population? I'd wager that we lead the country.

  • Bonnie
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    Noone wants to have a mental illness,or watch a loved one suffer from one. It is hard enough to cope with meds and triggers without doing it seperated from family.Residents from Labrador have to do just that.
    Why doesn't our government stop spending money on insignificant things,and prioritize spending.The health and welfare,education,water consuption and roads for citizens far outwieghs museums,concerts and political gains.
    If you are trying to accomplish anything while in a mental health crisis,it can become too much.For those who still believe the stigma attached to mental illness,all I can say to you is PRAY.Pray that it's not you or one of your loved ones suffering tomorrow,because it does not discriminate

  • Laney
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    No one knows the horror and lost hopeless feeling of the deep dark hole of depression, and other mental illnesses, unless they have actually gone through it. It's pure hell !
    Lives have/are lost because of no professional psychiatrist, or even a psychologist, available to them.

  • Bill
    July 01, 2010 - 19:52

    It would be better to take your chance with a butcher than to place your trust in the psych system in Newfoundland. More than half of the doctors treating patients need a good mental and moral over haul themselves. The lady said PRAY I agree, pray that you can keep your wits about you and not end up a mindless victim or a voiceless victim against a system that covers its abuses by blaming the patient.

  • I C Clearly
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    It's about priorities - and attaining the recommended standard for health care services is low on the Williams government priority list. I wonder how stack up in # of ministerial communication officers per 1000 of population? I'd wager that we lead the country.