Many mea­sures needed to im­prove men­tal health care, says Delorey.

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY NANCY KING nancy.king@cb­

There’s no sin­gle ap­proach to solv­ing the chal­lenges fac­ing the un­der­staffed men­tal health sys­tem in Cape Bre­ton, the prov­ince’s health min­is­ter says.

In an in­ter­view, Randy Delorey was re­spond­ing to news that the re­gion will soon be down to four psy­chi­a­trists — one-quar­ter of what the staffing would be at full com­ple­ment — with the re­cent an­nounce­ment by site lead Dr. Scott Mil­li­gan that he is re­sign­ing, ef­fec­tive Jan. 31.

Delorey said he’s aware of the va­can­cies in psy­chi­a­try in Cape Bre­ton and the Nova Sco­tia Health Author­ity has set it as a pri­or­ity in its spe­cialty re­cruit­ment ef­forts.

He said the prov­ince does rec­og­nize the need for more bod­ies on the ground.

“In the in­terim, I have met and heard from psy­chi­a­trists, par­tic­u­larly in Cape Bre­ton, on some sug­ges­tions of things that we can do dif­fer­ently,” Delorey said.

What has come out of that are some changes to the locum pro­gram, which al­lows doc­tors from an­other re­gion of the prov­ince to pro­vide care on a shorter-term ba­sis. Lo­cally, two psy­chi­a­trists in pri­vate prac­tice in Syd­ney and an­other from else­where in Nova Sco­tia have pro­vided cov­er­age un­der locums.

“My un­der­stand­ing is we’re see­ing peo­ple make use of that and come and back fill and fill shifts in Cape Bre­ton in the psy­chi­a­try space, we’re see­ing that also in other parts of the prov­ince that have other spe­cialty needs,” Delorey said.

The min­is­ter also touted a clin­i­cal as­so­ciate pro­gram that is be­ing de­ployed in Cape Bre­ton, which a se­nior of­fi­cial with the health author­ity said was Mil­li­gan’s sug­ges­tion. It in­volves physi­cians who have gen­er­ally been trained out­side of Canada and work un­der a spe­cific li­cence in a semisu­per­vised en­vi­ron­ment.

“It’s not some­thing that can be done in­stantly but we’ll work with our part­ners like the Col­lege of Physi­cians and Sur­geons so they’re work­ing to have that pro­gram up and run­ning to pro­vide more sup­port,” Delorey said.

When asked whether he be­lieves the re­cruit­ment ef­forts to date have been suf­fi­cient, he said he be­lieves the other mea­sures that have been un­der­taken will make the area more at­trac­tive and sup­port re­cruit­ment ef­forts.

“That’s ul­ti­mately a sig­nif­i­cant part of the long-term so­lu­tion,” Delorey said.

“Is it the to­tal so­lu­tion? No, there’s no one sin­gle best so­lu­tion. But is it part of the path for­ward? Yes.”

Those work­ing in the sys­tem are also con­tin­u­ing to look for ways to be more ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient, in­clud­ing stream­lin­ing im­mi­gra­tion re­quire­ments for po­ten­tial doc­tors, the min­is­ter said.

One lo­cal doc­tor has raised con­cerns about the ef­fec­tive­ness of tele­health in the area of men­tal health. That is one mea­sure that the pro­vin­cial health author­ity has in­di­cated it in­tends to make more use of to deal with the psy­chi­atric short­ages.

Delorey said there has been re­search back­ing up its use­ful­ness.

“In some cases, it’s ser­vices be­ing of­fered by pro­grams like Kids Help Phone … they’ve ex­panded and pro­vide on­line chat ses­sions and my con­ver­sa­tions with that or­ga­ni­za­tion noted that Nova Sco­tia ac­tu­ally stands out as the ju­ris­dic­tion where we have pro­por­tion­ally ac­tu­ally much of it hap­pen­ing through on­line rather than the tra­di­tional phone line and that the out­comes are pos­i­tive,” he said.

There have been de­lays in the roll­out of a new sys­tem to re­port and track wait times in men­tal health ser­vices by the health author­ity. The most re­cent data pub­licly avail­able is now more than a year old. Delorey said he’s been told the new sys­tem, which is in­tended to be more com­pre­hen­sive, is ex­pected to be on­line by the end of the month.

“It doesn’t mean data is not be­ing tracked and used to help in­form de­ci­sions,” he said. “The pref­er­ence would be to have had this data posted sooner rather than later.”


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