There will be no separate mental health unit for adolescents in the new hospitals on northern Vancouver Island despite the recommendations of a coroner’s jury last year.
The Vancouver Island Health Authority said Friday that there are insufficient cases to warrant dedicated youth beds in the hospitals at Comox and Campbell River.
“There are no plans for a separate in-patient adolescent psychiatric unit at the North Island hospitals project,” spokeswoman Suzanne Germain said. “The reason for that is there is simply not enough patients to warrant that.”
Germain said the hospital plans do include design accommodations to care for adolescents in the adult psychiatric unit at the new Comox Valley Hospital.
“This includes the ability to segregate the adult and adolescent patients, including flexible space planning for separate dining areas,” she said.
“The rooms in the unit are all large single rooms and could even accommodate a parent to sleep in the room if that was appropriate and desirable.”
In addition, there will be a general three-bed pediatric unit in the Campbell River hospital and a six-bed unit in Comox that could be used for child and youth mental health patients in emergency situations.
A coroner’s jury reviewing the suicide of 16-year-old Hayden Blair Kozeletski at a youth psychiatric facility in Saanich in 2010 recommended the Ministry of Health fund two beds specifically for adolescent patients at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox or its replacement.
Hayden, who suffered from anxiety and depression, disappeared from Ledger House after returning from a weekend visit to her home in Campbell River.
The inquest heard that she was extremely uncomfortable after being admitted to the adult psychiatric ward at St. Joseph’s.
Barbara Kozeletski, Hayden’s mother, said Saturday that VIHA’s response fails to address the profound need for youth mental health services in the region.
“We that live in the North Island value and treasure our children as much as those to the south,” she said.
“It is absolutely unreasonable that the only option is to have our kids sent to Victoria, namely Ledger House,” which she said does not diagnose or treat children. “In essence, Ledger House is a ‘cooling off’ station.”
Having to send children away increases “strain and stress in an already fragile situation,” Kozeletski said.
“There are some families that do not have the luxury of supporting their children when they are sent away based on geographical, financial, family situations and employment obligations.”
The North Island Hospitals Project calls for two new hospitals in Campbell River and the Comox Valley at a total cost of up to $600 million, the government said in a statement on Friday.
The 153-bed Comox Valley Hospital will replace St. Joseph’s Hospital at a projected cost of $334 million. The 95-bed Campbell River Hospital will replace the existing 70-bed facility at a cost of $266 million.
Construction is slated to begin in 2014 with the hospitals ready for patients by late 2017.
The B.C. government is picking up 60 per cent of the cost while the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District will cover the remaining 40 per cent.
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