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Closure of evening mental health clinics worries nurses
Fraser Health is ending evening services at six mental health clinics across the region — including the Tri-Cities — prompting concerns from the B.C.'s nurses union that some patients could go without services.
"Our concern is they will lose the support and they could suffer setbacks and end up in the acute care system, which is more costly," said Debra McPherson, BC Nurses Union president. "It ends up not being a cost savings."
But Fraser Health officials say the change will result in more people being served because staff who worked longer hours into the evening and got a day off every two weeks will now be working daytime hours.
Beginning Sept. 1, evening clinics are being be phased out in the Tri-Cities, Surrey, Langley, New Westminster, White Rock and Burnaby. Although no jobs will be cut because nurses will be reallocated to other shifts, McPherson is concerned the change will make it difficult for people who work or have small children at home during the day to access services.
In the Tri-Cities, six to eight people who previously saw counsellors until 8 p.m. once a week will be affected by the switch to 8:30 a.m.-to-4:30 p.m. hours. But McPherson said some cities where group counselling was offered during the evening will see more people affected and, in some cases, clients won't be able to get medicines they once did in the evening hours.
"Our real concern is a loss off service and access to service," McPherson said, noting that the change comes as mayors across the region are complaining about a shortage of mental health services and calling for the re-opening of Riverview Hospital.
GROWING NEED FOR SERVICE
But Denyse Houde, director of clinical programs, mental health and substance abuse for the Tri-Cities as well as Burnaby and New Westminster, said the change was needed to handle a growing demand for mental health services.
"Fraser Health understands that this change may cause concern to some of our clients. The decision to realign our resources was due to the fact that demands for daytime services have been increasing and we are unable to meet those demands with current staff rotations."
She said the majority of clients are accessing services during daytime hours and ending evening clinics will put more resources into periods of high demand, reducing wait times and aligning with other clinics across the rest of Fraser Health that don't provide evening clinic hours.
But for BCNU's McPherson, a better idea would be to put more funding into the system to enable Fraser Health to meet the new demand for service and provide evening service.
"Why would you take away something that assists the other parts of the system?" Houde asked.
• More information about mental health clinics in Fraser Health is available at www.fraserhealth.ca, under Find Us, Community Mental Health Care Programs.