There are now four fewer beds for youth in crisis at a mental health facility for youth at the Moncton Hospital.
This week, the Horizon Health Network confirmed that their four-bed Inpatient Youth and Wellness Unit at the hospital was merged with the Provincial Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit more than a year ago, bringing the total number of beds for youth in crisis from 10 down to six.
“The Inpatient Youth and Wellness Unit and the Provincial Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit (CAPU), both located at Horizon’s The Moncton Hospital (TMH), were merged into a single unit just over a year ago due to ongoing staffing challenges,” said Jean Daigle, VP Community, Horizon Health Network in an email to Global News.
News of the staffing shortage came as no surprise to the president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, Paula Doucet.
“We have heard that there has been turn-over and there and have been vacancies not filled,” she said, noting that staff in the unit have called her office concerned over the number of staff experiencing “burn-out.”
According to the nurses union, Horizon Health Network nurses across the province have worked almost 200,000 hours of overtime in 2020 and the number of nurses taking stress leave is on the rise, Doucet said.
“You are asking for a person to give 150 and sometimes 200 per cent of themselves and we can’t continue down that road,” she said.
Daigle said that the health authority is continuing with recruitment efforts in hopes of eventually reopening the beds.
The unit has been at capacity since January but no patients have been turned away according to the health authority.
Green Party Leader David Coon said he does not believe that patients have not been turned away.
“What we know is the first place children present is in the ER and the question is how many people have left the ER who otherwise might have been admitted because the ER doctors know there is no room at the inn,” he said.
He said the bed closures are “worrisome” and could put New Brunswick youth in need of mental health support at risk.
“This represents a 40 per cent reduction in the inpatient capacity in the province for helping children and youth struggling with serious mental illness,” said Coon.
Horizon Health said there is currently one person on a waiting list to get into the now-merged unit.
Doucet said she supports the health authority’s move to reduce the number of beds until more staff are available to ensure that patients have the proper care. But she said that staff recruitment for the department needs to be a priority.
“We have made a huge push on breaking down the barriers around mental health which I think is a step in the right direction. But we at the same time didn’t make the necessary correlation that if we are going to create a safe place for them we need to create human resources and a place for them,” she said.