FREDERICTON (GNB) – Health Minister Ted Flemming has accepted an external advisor’s recommendations to improve safety and services at the Restigouche Hospital Centre. A document containing the recommendations was tabled today in the legislature.

“The Restigouche Hospital Centre file is far from closed,” said Flemming. “The Department of Health will diligently monitor the situation and adhere to the vision of goals that support our vulnerable citizens having access to treatment and services that best meet their needs.”

The recommendations are part of the minister’s formal response to Failure to Protect, a report by the Office of the Ombud on allegations of inadequate care at the facility.

The ombud’s report said that a greater critical mass of clinical psychiatric expertise was needed at the facility, and recommended shrinking the mandate of the institution and potentially closing several units. It also recommended that the facility be evaluated on a regular basis by experts from outside the jurisdiction.

In response to those recommendations, the department hired an expert in health administration, George Weber, to guide the implementation of operational changes needed to address the ombud’s recommendations.

Weber has made four recommendations to improve safety and services at the Restigouche Hospital Centre:

  • Keep the Restigouche Hospital Centre (RHC) open, with the Department of Health continuing to support Vitalité Health Network’s established strategic action plan. This includes working with Vitalité Health Network to develop competitive recruitment and retention strategies for specific and essential health-care professionals.
  • Accelerate engagement with other government departments to assist Restigouche Hospital Centre (RHC) in discharging all patients who no longer require tertiary-care services into program placement that better meet their level of care needs.
  • Develop a provincial treatment system framework/continuum of mental health and addiction care. The framework should include outcome measures to identify gaps. Based on the completed framework, a provincial health bed capacity plan should be developed and implemented, with beds repurposed appropriately.
  • Assign an appropriate lead to monitor and ensure quality control of forensic assessments in New Brunswick.

The ombud had called on the government to reconsider plans to build a youth mental health facility next to the centre. This evaluation is underway, with Weber providing recommendations and advice.

Weber also made six recommendations for the Vitalité Health Network. He will continue working with the department and the health authority through early 2020 to ensure that improvement plans are carried out as recommended.

Weber’s report is available online.