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Father says his suicidal daughter got no help from Red Deer hospital

Red Deer Advocate - 12/9/2017

The father of a suicidal teenager said he waited five hours at Red Deer hospital's emergency room, only to be told there's no help available for his daughter on Tuesday night.

"They told me there was no psychiatrist, no social worker, no crisis team… We had two options: We could sit in those chairs for another 12 hours to wait until the psychiatrist came back on shift, or we could go home," added Graham Barclay.

The Red Deer dad took his 13-year-old depressed and anxious daughter home. But Barclay said he slept only three hours that night he was so worried and watchful so that his child wouldn't harm herself.

Earlier that evening, his daughter had told the hospital's medical staff that she was thinking of killing herself, had a plan to do it, and that a school counsellor had sent her to the emergency department.

Barclay, a single father-of-four, who also volunteers with mental health services in the city, questions how there can be no help for a suicidal teenager at Central Alberta's largest health facility?

According to emergency room staff, this happens on a regular basis, added Barclay, who noticed other patients were also at the hospital with mental health issues on Tuesday night.

When every kind of health emergency gets funnelled to Red Deer hospital, he wonders what Central Albertans with lesser problems can expect, "when you can't get help for a teenager who's on the edge of dying?"

According to written statement from Allan Sinclair, interim senior operating officer for the Red Deer area for Alberta Health Services (AHS), local mental health patients have access to a crisis team from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., as well as a psychiatrist-on-call. He maintains both were available on Tuesday night.

Although Sinclair can't refer to this specific case, because of patient confidentiality, he stated that patients with urgent needs, such as those posing a threat to themselves, receive urgent care.

"The results of a patient assessment are integral in determining whether they will be admitted or discharged," noted Sinclair, who also added that mental health services for youths are available in the Red Deer provincial building.

Barclay is well aware of these services, since his daughter sees a psychologist from that office. But on Tuesday, he said her mental health crisis had escalated to the point that she needed urgent care — which she did not receive.

While Sinclair appears to be quoting AHS policy, it was not followed, added the father. "What they're saying did not happen."

Barclay next plans to contact the AHS patient relations department (at 1-855-550-2555). Multiple complaints about the lack of care his daughter received have already been filed by health professionals dealing with her case, he added.

The 13-year-old saw her psychologist on Thursday, but can't get an appointment with a psychiatrist, who can prescribe meds, until later this month. Barclay believes the local shortage of mental health specialists is another serious gap in service.

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