Warning message

Please note that this page is from our archives. There may be more up-to-date content about this topic on our website. Use our search engine to find out.
PRINCE ALBERT: The Canadian Union of Public Employees is urging the Prince Albert Parkland Health Authority to rethink planned cuts to mental health services in a presentation to a board meeting this afternoon.

We are deeply concerned about the proposed cuts to the psychiatric wards at the Victoria Hospital, said Carol McKnight, president of CUPE Local 3833, which represents psychiatric attendants and other health workers in the authority.

First and foremost, we believe such cuts will have a devastating impact on the safety and care of mental health patients, but we also believe that these cuts will have a negative impact on hospital staff, the families of mental health patients and the community.

The health authority board has proposed closing one-half of the mental health beds to cover a $150,000 budget deficit. The move would leave only 22 in-patient beds at the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert and result in the layoff of up to 30 registered nurses and psychiatric attendants.

McKnight said the layoff of front-line staff would only add to the crushing workloads that are already burdening health care workers. She also cited a recent report by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which found that suicides, violence and poverty resulted from cutbacks to psychiatric services in Ontario.

McKnight said patients in the psychiatric wards require special attention and care because they are suffering from schizophrenia, serious forms of depression, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Alzheimer’s and other forms of mental illness. Some of the patients are at severe suicidal risk and require constant one-on-one care.

Where would these patients go? asked McKnight. Has management analyzed what the impact or consequences for patient safety or staffing workload will be? What about the impact

on the community and agencies that will have to play a greater role in meeting the needs for mental health services?

The union is urging the health authority to look for creative budget alternatives, instead of cutting mental health services.

McKnight said the authority could save money by creating more full-time positions, which would cut overtime costs. She also said the board could find savings by reducing management positions and addressing the high level of sick leave usage resulting from a stressful work environment.

A society can be judged by how they treat their most vulnerable people, said McKnight. Mental health illness affects a large part of the population and it is important that high quality services are accessible to those who need it, when they need it.

CUPE Local 3833 represents over 1,500 health care workers in the health authority who work in a variety of occupations such as dietary, housekeeping, maintenance, clerical, laboratory and x-ray, nurse aides, Licensed Practical Nurses, and psychiatric attendants.

- 30 -

For more information contact Carol McKnight at 922-0600.