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Emergency mental-health assessment unit opens at Royal University Hospital

Click to play video: 'Temporary mental health assessment unit opening at RUH'
Temporary mental health assessment unit opening at RUH
WATCH ABOVE: A temporary mental-health assessment unit will open at Royal University Hospital on Monday. – Apr 27, 2018

A new temporary mental-health assessment unit is set to open on Monday at the Royal University Hospital (RUH) Emergency Department.

Renovations started back in October for the seven-bed unit, which will be staffed 24/7 with access to psychiatric physicians and nurses.

READ MORE: Mental health assessment unit to open at RUH in early 2018

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The new unit aims to provide people in urgent need of mental-health care a more suitable space for treatment.

“The emergency department is a really chaotic place. It’s loud, it’s busy, there’s a lot of things going on. To have this separate environment that’s quiet, it’s calm, it’s controlled, I think it will really help patients that suffer from mental illness,” emergency physician Mark Wahba said.

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“We were getting a lot of letters and complaints and concerns from family members and from patients themselves about the inadequate care or not getting care at all in our emergency department. We took their lead and involved them in the design and in the operational plan,” said Tracy Muggli, the director of mental health and addictions for the Saskatchewan Health Authority in Saskatoon.

Allan Zabraczki, a patient adviser, said 20 years ago, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when he went to the emergency at RUH.

He said the long wait time only worsened his condition

“I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. The doctor telling me, ‘You’re not ill,’” Zabraczki said.

Zabraczki said the new unit, which features glass doors and a visible nurses’ station, will be more comforting for patients.

“People will get seen faster and that will, I think, encourage people who need to come,” Zabraczki said.

An estimated 5,000 patients each year visit RUH’s emergency department suffering from mental health.

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“It’s really important we ensure people aren’t having a physical health crisis, so we can screen for that and folks are OK. Then we will bring them back to the mental-health assessment unit for the next step for treatment,” Muggli said.

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The unit will be operational until the new adult emergency department is opened late next year, which will have private spaces for mental-health emergency care and assessment services.

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