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Future of Queen Elizabeth Hospital psychiatric ward unclear

Health Minister James Aylward was questioned whether a move of patients from Unit 9 to the Hillsborough Hospital will be permanent. Aylward said this is being considered by health authorities but a decision has not been made.
Health Minister James Aylward was questioned whether a move of patients from Unit 9 to the Hillsborough Hospital will be permanent. Aylward said this is being considered by health authorities but a decision has not been made. - Stu Neatby
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —



Green MLA Trish Altass questioned on Tuesday the province’s plans for Unit 9, the psychiatric unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

In the midst of the pandemic, the unit was moved to the Hillsborough Hospital in order to make space for potential COVID-19 patients. 

But during Question Period, Altass asked if the move will be permanent.

“Will Unit 9 not be reinstated at the QEH?” Altass asked Health Minister James Aylward.

Aylward did not confirm nor deny that unit would remain at Hillsborough Hospital. 

The province’s plans to replace the Hillsborough Hospital with a new mental health campus will involve Unit 9 being completely transitioned to the new facility.

However, construction of the new facility is not expected to be complete for at least three years.

“At no time did I say that Unit 9 would not be reinstated, but as we do know moving forward, with our mental health and addictions master plan with regards to the new campus, the intent will be to have a facility that can serve these individuals under one roof,” Aylward said.

In an interview, Aylward indicated there have been some improvements since the Unit 9 patients have been relocated to the Hillsborough Hospital.

"The big success that we have seen is the level of service, particularly around accessibility to psychiatry service at the Hillsborough Hospital because, all of a sudden, rather than having psychiatrists working out of two different locations, they were working under one roof," Aylward said.

"Are we going to revert back to some of the existing services pre-COVID? It's a possibility. But again, we're working closely with our service reinstatement team and with the chief public health officer."

Trish Altass
Trish Altass

 

In December, two psychiatrists working within Unit 9 left the province to pursue work elsewhere.

During Question Period, Altass also raised concerns about increased rates of drug use seen throughout Canada. 

“What additional harm reduction supports have you, or will you be implementing, during this pandemic for individuals struggling with addiction?"

Aylward responded, saying his department is working with a local non-governmental organization (NGO) to bring an overdose prevention line to P.E.I. The line would allow individuals who use drugs to remain on the phone with an individual, who could call first responders in case of an accidental overdose. 

Aylward also said the province is looking into bringing a B.C.-developed app called LifeGuard to P.E.I.

The app would be activated by an individual prior to using illicit drugs. After 50 seconds, the app sounds an alarm. If the individual does not hit a button to stop the alarm, a text-to-voice call will alert 911 of a potential overdose.

The app was developed partly due to the reality that many accidental overdoses occur when an individual is using illicit drugs alone.

"It's very early stages right now, it's still in the trial process in B.C.," Aylward said of his department’s discussions around the app.

"They're taking the lead on this trial because of, obviously, the high rates of overdoses that they have seen."


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