‘Disgraceful’: Concerns raised over treatment of Halifax man with schizophrenia

WATCH: A Nova Scotia man who says his roommate suffers from severe mental health issues is sharing their story of being sent home by a doctor in Halifax after the pair pleaded for more support. Alexa MacLean has the details.

A Nova Scotia man is sharing the details behind a recent visit he had to the emergency department with his roommate who suffers from a severe mental disorder.

The man, who only wants to be identified as Darren, says his roommate, Dan, has lived with schizophrenic delusions since 2004, when he was diagnosed.

Recently, Darren says his roommate’s delusions have worsed to the point where he feared a violent outburst was likely to occur.

“He can become violent and he has hurt others before in the past,” Darren said.

“He has an appointment with his doctor at the end of this month and we couldn’t wait. It was an emergency situation, which is why we ended up in emergency.”

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READ MORE: Cape Breton’s Eskasoni First Nation in mental health crisis

Darren says the pair arrived in the evening and were seen by a physician who ‘certified’ Dan due to his symptoms.

When a patient has been certified, Darren says, it means they can’t leave hospital care until they undergo a psychiatric assessment.

“When somebody is a threat to themselves or uttering [threats] to hurt themselves or others, basically the hospital has the responsibility to ensure that that person does not leave the hospital until they are treated or at least properly assessed,” he said.

After spending the night in the emergency room at the Dartmouth General Hospital, Dan was then transported to the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

However, this is when Darren says he was let down the most.

“I was hoping that they would keep him until that threat passed, help him with his medication and treat him until that threat passed,” he said.

“He was in for about 10 minutes and when I went to the room to see him the doctor had already left and security asked me if I was there to pick him up because he was discharged.”

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Darren says the doctor who completed the assessment didn’t feel Dan was a threat, despite the fact that he has had assault charges laid against him in the past due to violent outbursts Darren says are associated with his illness.

“I asked [the doctor], ‘What about his medication? Could you at least take a look at his medication?” Darren said. “He said we’re not making any changes to his medication, he’s fine, you can go. I said this is disgraceful, this is why family members get hurt, this is why people go out and kill themselves.”

READ MORE: First Nations community in Cape Breton grieving after multiple deaths

In a statement, the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) says it “empathizes with all patients” and that their health and well-being are always their top priority.

They did not respond directly to Darren’s complaints citing privacy issues.

“Inpatient treatment is not appropriate or necessary for every patient’s needs, and in some cases it can be harmful to their recovery. Psychiatrists determine whether someone’s needs require a hospital admission through a clinical assessment,” the statement read.

“No hospital turns away anyone who does require admission as assessed by a psychiatrist. If no bed is available in a person’s community, a bed is found elsewhere. All beds across Nova Scotia are provincial beds available to anyone who needs admission.”

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Patients who are experiencing a mental health crisis are encouraged to call the province-wide, 24-hour Mental Health Crisis Line, which is accessible at 1-888-429-8167.

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