LONDON – Workers at the London Mental Health Centre are concerned that their patients could find themselves without care as the region realigns mental health services, including a potential reduction of as many as 80 beds.
May 11 the hospital announced 50 beds were moving to Kitchener at the end of the summer. While about half of the beds are occupied by patients from the Kitchener area, there is no certainty that many will want to return to the area. Further, the other half will either find they are further from home, or be without appropriate care.
There has been no assurance that those who wish to transfer will not be given first priority over patients in the Kitchener area, many who have been on a waiting list for placement.
“While the Local Health Integration Network talks about moving patients closer to home, that is not the case in this transfer,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “They are moving from a 441-bed facility to a new 156-bed facility in 2015. That means they will be scrambling to move more patients either into insufficient community-based services or out of the community altogether.”
The union is concerned that with realignment, there are between 70-80 beds that will not be replaced. This is despite the fact that the province has already met its deinstitutionalization target of 35 beds per 100,000 people. In the province’s original Health Services Restructuring Plan, strong community supports were to be in place – 60 per cent of mental health funding was to be directed towards community-based agencies. However, in the 2008 auditor’s report, only $39 was being spent in the community for every $61 spent on institutionalized care.
OPSEU also cautions that patients on the psycho-geriatric unit cannot be easily transferred to another non-specialized unit.
“These workers have lengthy experience in dealing with a specialized clientele that can be violent and pose a threat to other patients. Many have other health symptoms related to aging. They cannot be easily absorbed into other units,” said Thomas.
The union is wondering what will happen now that the two affected units will be closing their doors to new admissions before any alternatives can be put in place.