A Red Deer father says the experience of getting his suicidal daughter help when she needed it most showed critical inconsistencies in the care that is supposedly available.
Graham Barclay, who happens to serve as the Board Chair for the Canadian Mental Health Association Central Alberta, says he took his 13-year-old daughter to Red Deer Regional Hospital on Dec. 5 after her school informed him that she was having troubles.
They arrived at 4 p.m., he says, and sat in the ER until 7, which is when they were attended to by a pair of nurses and a doctor.
“These people were potentially trained with regards to mental health, but were not specialists,” he recalls. “They were part of the staff helping the ER, but they weren't part of the Crisis Response Team, or a social worker, and to my knowledge, they did not call the psychiatrist that is on-call.”
In a statement provided to rdnewsNOW by AHS, resources at Red Deer Regional include a Crisis Response Team and an on-call psychiatrist to support patients, including youth, who come into the emergency department.
Barclay says it was about 9 p.m. when the doctors gave them two options, wait in that room until 9 the next morning, or go home.
“I certainly was in shock. I said, ‘You’re not moving us to another room? There’s no help at all?’ I was quite concerned and worried,” he says. “That was the worst my daughter had been (in six to nine months). It's an urgent care situation, it’s a crisis and she needs help, so I did what any father would do to make sure I could take care of her and stayed up all night (at home).”
As Barclay’s daughter’s problems persisted, the two returned to the hospital on Dec. 11 where it took no more than three hours before she was in a bed and was seen by people with actual psychiatric backgrounds, according to Barclay.
She remained there for 10 days.
“More crisis team intervention or help or labour need to be on-call at all hours of the day, not just until 11 p.m,” Barclay says. “We need people there 24/7. We need more opportunities for people to feel comfortable to come into the ER.”
Graham, who’s asked AHS to investigate why there was such an inconsistency between the two visits, is yet to hear back, partially because the patient advocate is on holidays. He went on to say, “I’ve been told of many situations where parents have been left out in the cold with regards to their kids and their mental health.”
In the same statement from AHS, they acknowledge that child and youth visits to the ER for mental health complaints increased 50 per cent in Alberta between 2007 and 2015. AHS also says it is continually working to enhance existing programs to meet the demand.
"We fully understand that any wait for treatment can be stressful for patients and families and we empathize with their dedication in advocating for their loved ones,” the statement reads. “Our goal is to ensure all patients receive the care they need in a timely manner. We assess and triage each patient to determine what level of care they require - if a patient requires emergency care they will be treated immediately. If patients can’t be booked immediately, we ensure they have interim care if required.”
AHS says in addition to the Crisis Response Team and on-call psychiatrist, there are currently eight child/youth mental health acute care beds at Red Deer Regional Hospital. The CRT is available seven days a week for 15 hours a day.
"There are problems in all departments," Barclay concludes. "The hospital needs to expand and we need more service here in central Alberta due to our growing population and more kids having mental health troubles."
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