Ombud calls for reduction of services at province's mental health centre

Ombud Charles Murray released findings of his office's probe into complaints of mistreatment of patients at Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton.

The New Brunswick Ombud's Office says the investigation began in 2017 when Murray received an anonymous letter alleging incidents of violence against patients, negligence, and the use of restraints and force by front line staff at the facility.

Murray says, "the Restigouche Hospital Centre has reverted to an antiquated model of a mental institution operating largely to warehouse New Brunswick residents with serious mental health issues."

The Ombud's report says the hospital has been unable to build a critical mass of clinical psychiatric expertise, which has resulted in significant delays in patients receiving assessments.

The report says that in a number of cases, external experts also found the assessment work to be negligent.

The Ombud's Office says the report also highlights the physical mistreatment of patients during Code White incidents, when patients are aggressive in their behavior and pose a danger to themselves and staff, and notes that understaffing has created a risk for hospital staff.

Murray is calling on the province to "take immediate action by shrinking the mandate of this institution and potentially closing a number of units, reducing the number of mental health populations it is mandated to serve."

In the report, Murray is calling on the government to reconsider the plan for the construction of an adjacent youth mental health facility, saying that if a new facility opened, it would encounter the same recruitment problems.

The province has 90 days to respond to the report to determine if the Office of the Ombud should conduct a more extensive investigation.