Tuesday, September 25, 2012


It is hard to make sense of the news that a 19-year old man under the care of Eastern Health was killed on the Trans-Canada Highway last night after he escaped from an ambulance that was transporting him to hospital in St. John's.

The incident raises many questions, the least of which is how safe are our relations when we put them in the care of our public health system. The province healthcare boards and the Department of health have a shoddy record when it comes to youth patients with mental health and addictions issues.

The province has been trying to rectify the criticisms. A youth treatment centre was originally promised in the 2009 Provincial Budget.

The government spending spree came after years of ignoring pleas for help from advocates for young patents with mental and addiction issues.  The issue boiled over when the media reported that that t two adolescents were transferred to the Waterford mental hospital - an adult facility -from the Janeway in December 2008. One of them was transported by police in handcuffs.

The province's  child and youth advocate launched a probe into the incident, releasing a scathing report containing 18 recommendations for Eastern Health.

The province continues to have fewer psychiatrists when  compared with national ratios for youth child psychiatric services. The government sat on a 2004 report  that recommended changes to mental health services for children and youth.

In 2009, the Conservatives voted to fire the Child and Youth Advocate, Darlene Neville who had been investigating issues related to youth mental and addiction services. The government claimed that Neville created a poisoned work environment in the child advocate's office.

A number of mental health related issues in the late 90's, including two suicides resulting from patients hurling themselves out of windows at the Grace Hospital led government and health care officials to review protocols related to patient safety.  Locking windows and wrapping them in chicken wire did little to address the need for more professionals and mental health services.

Budget 2012 allocated $15.5 million for the continued development of the youth treatment centres in Paradise and Grand Falls-Windsor and an adult treatment centre in Harbour Grace. The Paradise and Grand-Fall's facilities are under construction.

The public has a right to know the details of what went wrong on the TCH on a dark late night? How does a patients life end so tragically while in the care of Eastern Health? 

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