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Health P.E.I. finds psychiatrists to do court-ordered mental health assessments

East Coast Forensic Hospital, Nova Scotia
East Coast Forensic Hospital, Nova Scotia - Google map

P.E.I.’s problems getting court-ordered mental health assessments completed may be at an end after the province has found two psychiatrists to do them. 

In a statement, Health P.E.I. said Dr. Terrence Cronin will be doing on-site forensic assessments in the province while Dr. Andrew Morgan will complete them from his practice in Ontario using telehealth.

“Health P.E.I. is committed to providing timely and effective health care and makes every effort to comply with court orders for mental health assessments,” the statement said.

For several years, P.E.I. has had a memorandum of understanding with the East Coast Forensic Hospital to perform court-ordered mental health assessments, although the numbers completed varied each year based on the courts’ needs.

When The Guardian spoke to the hospital’s clinical director, Dr. Aileen Brunet, in May, she said there were four assessment orders sent to the hospital that calendar year.

As the hospital’s assessment and rehab units reached capacity, it meant the facility was declining to do some assessments for P.E.I. 

In one case, it led provincial court Chief Judge Nancy Orr to say the province would have to decide at some point what it was going to do in regard to the assessments because they are court orders.

“It’s not an option,” Orr said at the time.

Delays were also seen in an infanticide case involving an assessment for Shannon Dawn Rayner that was initially ordered in November 2018.

Provincial court Judge John Douglas issued a new order in February 2019 after the forensic hospital missed the first deadline to have the assessment completed and an extension.

In Rayner’s case, it was determined she didn’t meet the conditions of being found not criminally responsible.

The Guardian asked to speak with someone from Health P.E.I. about the changes to the assessments, but a spokesman said it couldn’t provide anyone for an interview.

A statement from Health P.E.I. said it spent “considerable time” seeking out psychiatrists who were qualified and willing to do forensic assessments on demand.  

“This (assessment) work takes time and expertise,” the statement said.

The statement also said telehealth allows the province to pay Morgan, who is licensed to practise in P.E.I., for clinical time without the added expense of travel and accommodation.

“Having a second sub-specialist forensic psychiatrist available by telehealth is a significant benefit.”

As for what the province will spend on assessments, Health P.E.I. said most cases require between 15 and 25 hours of work with costs ranging from $4,500 to $8,750.

Health P.E.I. said it expects to be able to meet court-imposed deadlines on assessments.


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