Statement by Trish Altass, Official Opposition Critic for Health and Wellness, regarding the ongoing closure of Unit 9
During the early days of this pandemic, government had to make decisions to keep Islanders safe using what little information they had about COVID-19. In an effort to prepare our healthcare system to respond to this virus, government chose to discharge all patients from the Unit 9 psychiatric ward. This unit was emptied so it could house Islanders who may need to be hospitalized as a result of COVID-19.
Thankfully, PEI did not require hospitalization for any of its positive COVID cases. Unfortunately, patients of Unit 9 who required hospitalization were not given the care they needed.
Last April I began emailing the Minister of Health expressing my concerns about the closure of Unit 9. I outlined concerns that were being shared with me by many Islanders and their families. They were asking when Unit 9 and other mental health and addiction services would reopen. I asked the Minister how decisions were being made about mental health and addiction services during the pandemic and who was making these seemingly dangerous decisions. I asked these same questions months later in the House.
Eventually, I managed to get a meeting with the Minister last month. I was told government was aiming to reopen Unit 9 at about half capacity sometime in mid to late fall. It is now seven months since the closure. PEI has had no COVID-19 hospitalizations, and this incredibly important Unit is still closed. After all these months and many attempts to find clear answers to questions, the Minister has been either reluctant or unable to provide them.
Yesterday, Dr. Heather Keizer, Chief of Health PEI’s Mental Health and Addictions Services, also raised some serious concerns about the fact Unit 9 is still closed to patients requiring psychiatric care.
Mental health and addiction treatment is not optional. It is not just something that is nice to have. It is absolutely necessary for the health and safety of many Islanders. Our government needs to realize this and stand up for Islanders.
Even before the pandemic, we were a province in the midst of a mental health crisis. We have successfully navigated the first wave of COVID and we are well prepared to navigate a potential second wave. It is unacceptable for this government to continue ignoring Islanders in need of mental health care. COVID is no longer an acceptable excuse for government’s inability to act on this crisis.
On behalf of Islanders, I welcome Dr. Keizer’s remarks and reiterate my ongoing concerns over this issue. I am calling on Minister Aylward to finally take this issue seriously and give it the attention that it so desperately needs. Islanders and their families are paying a high price for government’s continuing delay and lack of concern.
Trish Altass, MLA
Official Opposition Critic for Health and Wellness