NDP, families call for emergency mental health unit in Royal University Hospital

Click to play video 'Saskatoon mother looking for help after son’s experience at Royal University Hospital as a mental health patient' Saskatoon mother looking for help after son’s experience at Royal University Hospital as a mental health patient
WATCH ABOVE: The NDP is calling on the provincial government to do more to get a mental health unit in the emergency department in Royal University Hospital.

Lucy Mauerhoff calls her son’s experience as a mental health patient this summer, “deplorable.”

“Since then, he has said he will never go back to the ER. He said, ‘If I’m sick mom, I refuse to go back. I can’t go through that again,’” Mauerhoff said on Monday.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s suicide crisis among First Nations youth

Mauerhoff’s son has anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. She said there was no room for her son in the Dubé Centre in July; instead he ended up in a separate, locked room in the emergency department.

“My son just cried for two days and a night wanting out. With a bed bolted to the floor and a toilet out in the open, what does that say to mentally ill patients,” Mauerhoff asked.

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Mauerhoff, along with other families, held a small protest to draw attention for the need of a mental health short-stay unit added in Royal University Hospital (RUH) emergency department.

The Saskatchewan NDP called on the provincial government to fund staffing for the unit.

“Imagine being someone with an emergency, a mental health emergency. If you’re suicidal, if you’re filled with anxiety, if you’re in the middle of a psychotic episode, being made to wait in an emergency room for hours and hours and hours on end,” NDP health critic Danielle Chartier said.

“This is not the way to treat mental health patients.”

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The NDP said the new mental health unit could also take pressure off the RUH emergency room.

A private donor gave $1 million for the capital cost for the renovation of the emergency mental health unit, which would be adjacent to the current emergency room, according to Chartier.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said the Saskatoon Health Region has submitted a formal project proposal for the unit and it is currently under review “to ensure sustainable funding is available for annual operating costs.”

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The province said the unit is considered a priority, but added there are “additional considerations as the emergency department moves from its current location at RUH to the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital.”

Currently in cases of psychiatric emergencies, patients are directed to go to the RUH emergency room where a psychiatric nurse is available daily from noon until midnight.