St. Mary's will get a new, six-bed psychiatric unit in the spring of 2005 as part of a million-dollar upgrade to mental health services on the Sunshine Coast. Mental health advocates have long been demanding better services on the Sunshine Coast.
Paul Charron, director of Sunshine Coast Mental Health Services, said the news was "like winning the lottery in the mental health profession." "We have been badly in need of dedicated inpatient beds," said Charron. "They have committed nearly $1 million [annually] to program enhancement. It's a big infusion of additional programs to the Coast."
The new psych unit will be on the second floor of the hospital and staffed with six full-time psychiatric nurses, said Charron."It addresses the current need and helps us prepare for the additional people expected to move to the Sunshine Coast in the next 10 years," he said.
There are currently no dedicated psychiatric beds at the hospital, and psychiatric patients from the Sunshine Coast must be transferred to other facilities, most commonly Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver. The new psych unit would enable the majority of those patients to be cared for on the Sunshine Coast.
Several other mental health improvements are scheduled to happen by the end of November.
Chapman House, a six-bed psychiatric facility in Wilson Creek, will hire two more staff, a psychiatric nurse and a mental health worker. The aim is for Chapman House to provide a greater level of on-site care and act as an early discharge transition facility from St. Mary's.
St. Mary's will hire two new staff as well, a social worker and an occupational therapist, as part of a new psychiatric day program for both admitted and recently discharged patients. The hospital will also provide dedicated space for psychiatrists for the first time.
"It positions us to have a really comprehensive, integrated mental health program on the Sunshine Coast," said Charron. The goal of the project is to provide greater access to acute psychiatric services and help patients rapidly return to an improved quality of life with a reduced readmission rate.
In announcing the program, Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Harold Long said, "I'm particularly excited about the plans for the inpatient psychiatric unit at St. Mary's, which is modeled in part on the successful program already underway at Powell River General Hospital."