As a family physician, I am dismayed that that the abysmal access to outpatient mental health is not being discussed by the politicians. It certainly represents an important issue for patients. Almost every family in P.E.I. is affected by mental illness in some way. It is truly a sad circumstance when I sit in an examination room and tell an emotionally ill person that there is, in reality, nowhere to refer them unless they are so critically ill that I can send him or her to the on-call psychiatrist in the emergency room. I dutifully fill in the consult forms for the Richmond Centre, but hundreds and probably thousands go unanswered each year. According to guidelines, P.E.I. should have roughly 21 psychiatrists based on its population. The existing and archaic complement allows just 15 psychiatrists; and some of those spots are unfilled. The allied health workers at the Richmond Centre are underperforming, as they see just one or two patients per day despite being paid a full-day’s work. I have had medical practices in two other provinces and I never had a patient discharged from a Mental Health Assessment Unit, who did not receive an outpatient counselor. It occurs here all the time. It should not be surprising that many of the same unsupported patients are cycling back into the hospital through the ER. Building Hillsborough Hospital is important, but it is not as critical as providing effective outpatient services. Outpatient care is broken here and has been for so long that the government takes it for granted that it is supposed to be like it is. Patients are hurting emotionally, and some are killing themselves because they do not have realistic outpatient care.
Dr. Stirling Keizer, M.D., C.C.F.P.