‘This system is broken’: N.B. father speaks out about son’s psychiatric hospital mistreatment

Click to play video: 'N.B. mental health facility report hits close to home in Campbellton'
N.B. mental health facility report hits close to home in Campbellton
The ombudsman's safety concerns about the Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton are hitting close to home for the family of a patient at the facility. Callum Smith explains – Feb 8, 2019

When New Brunswick’s Ombudsman released his report ‘Failure to Protect’ Thursday, it hit close to home for one Moncton family.

The report found many patients have been mistreated at Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton.

Reid Smith, whose 34-year-old son is a patient at the psychiatric hospital, says he knows all too well about some forms of mistreatment at the facility.

“Worries are there every day while he’s there in Restigouche,” Smith says. “‘I wonder how he’s doing today, I wonder if he’s being properly cared for.'”

READ MORE: Report identifies negligence and abuse at N.B. mental health facility

Smith says his son was placed in restraints for up to seven hours at one point, was physically assaulted by other patients, and did not received proper medical care. Smith says hospital officials have told him it’s been a two-hour period, but his son alleges it’s longer than that.

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Regardless, Smith is concerned with the duration.

Smith says hospital officials are doing what they can, but with such severe staffing shortages, he says at one point his son was forced to clean up his own vomit.

Charles Murray, the province’s ombudsman, said “chronic understaffing” was part of the mistreatment of patients.

“Far from being its intended centre of excellence, the Restigouche Hospital Centre has reverted to an antiquated model of a mental institution operating largely to warehouse New Brunswick residents with serious mental health issues,” Murray said Thursday.

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Click to play video: 'Mental health services for children becomes election issue in N.B.'
Mental health services for children becomes election issue in N.B.

Smith’s son, who has been a patient at Restigouche Hospital Centre for about six years, lives with Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD and anxiety. During that time, Smith says an independent medical assessment found his son was dangerously over-medicated.

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He says when those doses were reduced, he noticed an immediate change in his son’s behaviour.

Smith has been desperately trying to get his son moved from the facility, but says Level 4 care homes with extraordinary needs are hard to come by.

“Throughout the province, there are homes,” he says. “But not to meet the needs of my son’s disability.”

A spot at a special care home opened in Moncton six months ago, but Smith is still waiting to hear if his son can be moved there.

READ MORE: Parents who miss work to help children suffering from anxiety cost Ontario economy $421M a year: report

Meanwhile, Murray is concerned there may be more heartbreaking stories out there.

The investigation will continue, to allow more people speak out about an issue that he says “may be going under-reported.” He also hopes providing the province with a 90-day period will help hold it accountable.

Smith is concerned about possible retribution for his son, but hopes speaking out will help fix the issues.

“I want to be a voice for him. I want to be a voice for the ones that don’t have voices,” he says.

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“The message has got to be sent that this system is broken, and there has to be something done.”

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