Stop bed cuts and assess mental health needs in St. Thomas and London – OPSEU report

LONDON, Sept. 20 /CNW/ – Its time to stop cutting beds and do an updated mental health care needs assessment in the London area says the Ontario Public Service Employees Union in a new report released today.

OPSEU is releasing “No Place To Go” following a summer of confusion over bed transfers from Regional Mental Health Care – London and St. Thomas.

Bed counts at the mental health hospital will drop to nearly half over the next four years, 138 beds transferring away from the RMHC, as many as 80 beds disappearing entirely.

The union argues that while the target bed counts come from the 13-year old recommendations of the provincial Health Services Restructuring Commission, the province 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 argues the costs of only taking half of the HSRC’s recommendations have been high. The government’s own discussion paper admits that mental health and addictions costs the Ontario economy $39 billion per year, and that for every dollar spent on mental health, $7 is saved in health costs and $30 saved in lost productivity.

The union is also concerned that relying on a planning document that is 13-years old may not take into consideration more recent demographic projections. For example, the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario has projected the number of Ontarians with dementia to double within the next 25 years. With half the available beds, this could put London’s mental health services under incredible stress.

The union is recommending the plans for the new RMHC be placed on hold until a needs assessment can be completed, one that takes into account the 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.”

Copies of the full report can be downloaded: here