'Many have other health symptoms related to aging. They cannot be easily absorbed into other units.' - Warren (Smokey) Thomas.
London (14 May 2010) - Workers at the London Mental Health Centre are concerned that their patients could find themselves without care as the region realigns mental health services, including a potential reduction of as many as 80 beds.
The hospital has announced that 50 beds are moving to Kitchener at the end of the summer. While about half of the beds are occupied by patients from the Kitchener area, there is no certainty that many will want to return to the area. The remaining half will find they are either further from home or without appropriate care.
There has been no assurance that those who wish to transfer will not be given first priority over patients in the Kitchener area, many who have been on a waiting list for placement.
"While the Local Health Integration Network talks about moving patients closer to home, that is not the case in this transfer," says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE).
"They are moving from a 441-bed facility to a new 156-bed facility in 2015. That means they will be scrambling to move more patients either into insufficient community-based services or out of the community altogether."
The union is concerned about the realignment because 70-80 beds will not be replaced. This is happening despite the fact that the province has already met its deinstitutionalization target of 35 beds per 100,000 people, OPSEU notes.
In the province's original Health Services Restructuring Plan, strong community supports were to be in place with 60% of mental health funding directed towards community-based agencies. However, in the 2008 auditor's report, only $39 was being spent in the community for every $61 spent on institutionalized care.
OPSEU also notes that patients on the psychogeriatric unit cannot be easily transferred to another non-specialized unit.
"These workers have lengthy experience in dealing with a specialized clientele that can be violent and pose a threat to other patients," says Thomas.
"Many have other health symptoms related to aging. They cannot be easily absorbed into other units."
The union questions what will happen now that the two affected units will be closing their doors to new admissions before any alternatives can be put in place.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE