FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has hired a nationally recognized mental health expert to review issues raised in an ombud’s report, which was released today, and to guide ongoing operational changes necessary to improve patient care and staff safety at the Restigouche Hospital Centre.

“The report shows there is an urgent need for improvement,” said Health Minister Ted Flemming. “A formal response to this report will be issued within 90 days, as requested by the ombud. However, as a first step in response to a specific ombud recommendation, the Department of Health has engaged one of the most qualified mental health experts in the country.”

George Weber, former president and CEO of Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, will review the issues raised in the ombud’s report with the Vitalité Health Network and report back to the department.

“The treatment of patients detailed in these incident reports is unacceptable and will not be tolerated in a health-care facility in New Brunswick,” said Flemming. “We will work together to ensure that patients get the treatment they need.”

In response to the report, the Vitalité Health Network noted that some changes have already been implemented as a result of its own reviews. These changes include:

  • Improving the process related to “Code White” responses, which are called when a patient exhibits aggressive behaviour or attempts to harm themselves or others. The number of Code Whites have decreased by over 50 per cent and physical contact during these events has been reduced, as well.
  • Improving the processes related to forensic psychiatric assessments. This has reduced the length of stays at the facility by 50 per cent and eliminated issues related to overcapacity of the forensic unit.
  • Improving staffing ratios. A recent analysis indicated that the facility is sufficiently staffed to ensure the safety of patients and staff.

“While there have been steps taken by the regional health authority and the facility, we know, thanks to the work being presented today by the Office of the Ombud, that much more needs to be done,” said Flemming.

The department is reviewing the ombud’s report and recommendations in detail.

Flemming said the Department of Health and Vitalité Health Network will continue to be co-operative and transparent with the ombud’s investigation.