Bed counts will drop to nearly half over the next four years despite a doubling of patients with dementia in the coming years, union says.
London (22 Sept. 2010) - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says it is time to stop cutting beds and do an updated mental health care needs assessment in the London area.
OPSEU has released a report, entitled No Place To Go, following a summer of confusion over bed transfers from Regional Mental Health Care (RMHC) in London and St. Thomas.
Bed counts will drop to nearly half over the next four years with 138 beds being transferred away from the RMHC and as many as 80 beds disappearing entirely.
The union argues that while the target bed counts come from the 13-year old recommendations of a provincial health services restructuring commission, the government has failed to provide promised replacement care in the community.
“The health restructuring commission was very clear that none of these beds should be lost before services are replaced in the community,” says OPSEU president Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “They cut the beds, but they never even came close to replacing those services elsewhere.”
The union says the cost of implementing the commission's recommendations on a selective basis has been high.
The government’s own discussion paper acknowledges that mental health and addictions cost the Ontario economy $39 billion per year and that for every dollar spent on mental health $7 is saved in health costs and another $30 in lost productivity.
The union is also concerned that relying on a 13-year-old planning document may not take into consideration more recent demographic projections.
For example, the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario (ASO) has projected the number of Ontarians with dementia to double within the next 25 years. With just half the number beds in the future, this could put London’s mental health services under incredible stress.
OPSEU is recommending that the plans for the new RMHC be placed on hold until a needs assessment can be completed, one that takes into account a 10-year provincial mental health plan that is expected to be completed later this year.
“You don’t make major changes to services first, then plan later,” says Thomas. “With private consortiums bidding on the new RMHC in London and St. Thomas, it’s important we get this right.”
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
Download OPSEU report: No Place to Go