Home Advocate Mental health care for children is becoming a crisis in the North, lawyer says

Mental health care for children is becoming a crisis in the North, lawyer says


Northern Saskatchewan’s only child psychiatry unit is closing for the second time since 2019 because there are no child psychiatrists to manage it.

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For the second time in two years, children and youth in northern Saskatchewan have lost their only child psychiatrist.

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Saskatchewan Children and Youth Advocate Lisa Broda said the closure of Prince Albert’s child psychiatry unit shows a greater gap in mental health care for Saskatchewan children, who, according to it becomes a “crisis situation”.

Broda said the closure of the unit, which is supposed to house 10 of the province’s 30 child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient beds, will be felt across the province, where many children have to wait months or more. a year to see one of these doctors.

“The rights of children in service are going to be deeply impacted, especially for this northern community,” Broda said.

The Prince Albert unit closed once in 2020 after one of the town’s two child psychiatrists died and the other retired.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority hired Dr. Randy Zbuk to partially reopen the unit in February 2021. He will close his practice this week, saying the workload was not bearable for a single doctor.

The SHA is now trying to recruit two of the professionals wanted in the city.

Health Minister Paul Merriman said the government has given signing bonuses of about $30,000 to child psychiatrists who work for three years in Prince Albert.

“If we need to invest more money, we are certainly ready to do so because we understand the importance of it,” Merriman said.

Andrew McLetchie, SHA’s vice president of Northern Integrated Health, said Prince Albert should have three child psychiatrists to meet the needs in the North. He hopes to formally request this funding from the Ministry of Health once two doctors have been recruited, he said.

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“There is an intention, eventually, to see three child psychiatrists in Prince Albert.”

Child psychiatrists say the unit’s closure is a blow to the North, where vast distances, limited resources and intergenerational trauma have resulted in a deep need for services.

Dr. Sara Dungavell, who is based in Saskatoon, said she also believes it highlights a bigger gap in the North. She said many children could be helped by counsellors, psychologists or elders in their respective communities before help from a child psychiatrist is needed, but as things stand these services do not exist. not always, which increases the pressure on a small team of late doctors.

“I constantly get the refrain from parents and kids that they just need someone to talk to and they can’t get to anyone,” Dungavell said.

Broda released a report earlier this year on gaps in mental health care services for children across the province. She said one of the findings was the need for ‘intermediate’ programs that young people can access before they go on the waiting list for a child psychiatrist. Otherwise, Broda said, children wait so long for their problems to escalate, forcing their families to go to the emergency room for help.

“Young people have talked about having to wait a long time, if even seen, before they end up in hospital trying to get treatment,” she said.

The government accepted the recommendations of Broda’s report. Broda said she hopes to discuss it with Merriman in the fall.

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“I think we are in a crisis situation here and the government needs to think creatively about how they are going to respond to our recommendations,” she said.

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  1. Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert.

    Saskatchewan, again, does not have a child psychiatrist in the north of the province

  2. Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert.

    Saskatchewan. children have to wait months or years to see a psychiatrist

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