The New Brunswick government has announced that it has accepted safety recommendations for the province’s main mental health facility after a damning report found patients suffering from negligence, abuse and unacceptable treatment.
The province announced that Health Minister Ted Flemming has accepted New Brunswick Ombud Charles Murray’s report, which highlighted allegations of inadequate care at Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton.
“We have to stop mixing politics, economic development and health care. We’ve got to put clinical health services first,” Flemming said on Wednesday.
Murray’s report found that gaps in assessment and detailed care plans have compromised patient health. In at least one case, Murray found that this may have resulted in a patient’s premature death.
Flemming stated that the Department of Health will “diligently monitor the situation and adhere to the vision of goals that support our vulnerable citizens having access to treatment and services that best meet their needs.”
Murray said his office began investigating the centre after a 2017 complaint but its “deep dive” into the files didn’t start until May 2018 after it had received more complaints from inside the facility.
“The Restigouche Hospital Centre is not only failing in its ambition to be a centre of excellence, it is not even meeting the minimum standards of care for a mental institution,” Murray said when the report was tabled in February.
WATCH (Feb. 8, 2019): N.B. mental health facility report hits close to home in Campbellton
The report found that a greater critical mass of clinical psychiatric expertise was needed at the facility and that the facility should be evaluated on a regular basis by experts outside the jurisdiction.
In response, the health department hired George Weber, an expert in health administration, to “guide the implementation of operational changes needed to address the ombud’s recommendations.”
Weber made four recommendations, which include:
- Keeping the hospital open, with the department working to develop recruitment and retention strategies
- Accelerating the discharging of patients who no longer require tertiary-care services into program placements that better meet their required level of care
- Assigning a lead to monitor and ensure quality control of forensic assessments and develop a provincial treatment system, including measures to identify gaps
- Implementing a bed capacity plan that can be developed and carried out with repurposed beds, if needed
Murray’s report also noted a proposed youth mental health facility adjacent to the Restigouche Hospital Centre is poorly advised and would likely suffer the same problems if opened.
In response, the province said an evaluation is underway and that Weber will provide recommendations and advice. Flemming declined to comment further.
“I’m not here to talk about the youth centre. If you want to talk about the Campbellton hospital, we will. But if not I will go to my next appointment,” Flemming stated.
The Liberal Party says the province needs to go ahead with the planned opening of the centre, which is now three months behind schedule.
“Who does it hurt? Two people. The patients that are not able to come to the centre and also the specialists,” said Liberal MLA Guy Arseneault. “We want to recruit these specialists and now they have to wait and are not sure if it’s going to open yet.”
George Weber has agreed to oversee and monitor the changes at the hospital until 2020.
—With files from the Canadian Press and Morganne Campbell.