New addictions and mental health unit, specialized staff coming to HSC

By | September 2, 2020

A new unit for patients who are intoxicated, going through withdrawal or mental health crises is coming to the emergency department at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, the province announced Wednesday.

The province is spending $3.5 million to add staff trained in addictions and mental heath care with the hopes of opening the unit by November, Health Minister Cameron Friesen said.

“By investing in additional clinical staff specializing in substance use, addictions and mental health within HSC’s emergency department, we will improve patient care and emergency wait times for these patients,” Friesen said in a news release.  

That includes an on-site addiction physician or psychiatrist for weekend and evening shifts, approximately 8.5 full-time equivalent mental health nursing positions and 8.4 security staff positions.

The province estimates these new positions will reduce wait times by six per cent.

The new unit will include six more beds and two “safe seclusion rooms,” which are used to stabilize patients with severe alcohol or drug intoxication, as well as meth-associated psychosis.

The province says it will also hire addiction outreach workers hired to support people who are discharged from the unit.

“Over the last four years, the presence of meth-associated psychosis in our community has resulted in a steadily increasing number of patients arriving at hospital in need of a short period of stabilization,” said Dr. Jitender Sareen, the provincial specialty lead for mental health and addiction at Shared Health, in the release.

“The unique needs of this population requires a multidisciplinary team with a high level of expertise to ensure the safety of patients, staff and the community.”

Friesen says the new unit and specialized staff addresses recommendations from the City of Winnipeg’s Illicit Drug Task Force as well as those in a report on mental health and addiction services commissioned by the province from the consulting group VIRGO.

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