More psychiatrists needed

Kristen McEwen
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Funding needed to create additional child psychiatrist position in health region

There are not enough psychiatrists in the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, according to the region’s vice president of community and care.  

The Prince Albert Parkland Health Region is in need of three full time child psychiatrists, but first they will need funding and a supported business model.

“The demand is bigger than the capacity,” Brett Enns said.

For adult patients, there are six psychiatrists in the health region -- four contract psychiatrists and two fee-for-service psychiatrists.

Near the end of 2015, one part-time adult psychiatrist retired and another moved from full time to part time.

For children and youth patients, there are two psychiatrists, though one is an adult psychiatrist working part time for pediatric and adolescent patients.

According to Enns, the health region needs three full time child psychologists.

“With some of the significant issues that we faced, we probably should be looking more like three child psychiatrists solely dedicated to (children and youth),” he said.

“We would look to bring in one more child psychiatrist. The hope would be to seek funding for another child psychiatrist, full time.”

He explained that with limited funds, creating a new position would require building a business case that would be supported by the provincial Ministry of Health.

“That’s probably going to be challenging right now,” Enns said. In the meantime, the health region will continue to do what it has been doing.

For people who are classified in the moderate or mild categories, they may be facing longer wait times. 

Patients are still seen as quickly as possible, Enns said.

“If you can catch things early, you can prevent things from going to a more severe category,” he said.

Overwhelming caseloads

In PAPHR, contracted adult and child psychiatrists have contact with about 10 patients a day.

The number of people who access psychiatrist services is fluid, Enns said.

“The goal, of course, is that they would work with the psychiatrist for a period of time then transition back to their family practitioner or nurse practitioner -- whatever the primary caregiver or health provider is,” he said.

Enns estimated that at any given time, psychiatrists could have an active caseload around 300 patients. An accumulative caseload for psychiatrists at the end of a year is about 3,000 people, he said.

Enns could not say how many patients fee-for-service psychiatrists see.

He also could not say what the ideal number of cases would be per psychiatrist.

“I don’t know if there is an ideal average in a community like ours versus a community like Saskatoon,” Enns said.

“I don’t know what the norm is -- we’ve always just worked with that we have,” he added.

“Do our psychiatrists feel overwhelmed at times? Absolutely. Absolutely they do.”

@KristenMcEwen •

Organizations: Ministry of Health

Geographic location: Saskatoon

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