Psychiatrist speaks out about changes Print

Changes to Ontario Shores' adolescent program are 30 years out-of-date says Dr. Gabrielle Ledger, a psychiatrist who quit her job last month at the Whitby psychiatric hospital.

In a public letter, Ledger says she quit her job at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences as a direct result of changes being implemented there.

In December Ontario Shores issued layoff notices to about half of its child and youth workers as part of a merger of the short and long-stay adolescent programs. The long-stay adolescent residential rehab (ARR) program has successfully worked with youth from across the province that have had between three and seven prior hospitalizations.

"In my opinion, this proposed change reflects the hospital's attempt to apply an adult model of mental health services to a non-adult population," she writes. "This is a significant step backwards towards a model that is thirty years out of date."

Ontario Shores plans on replacing about twenty child and youth workers with nursing staff providing a very different model of care.

Ledger says the adolescent programs at Ontario Shores are staffed by an experienced team of professionals who have collaborated for more than 25 years.

"Unfortunately the recent decision made by the administrators of this newly divested hospital suggests that they may be unaware of the history of the programs and the careful evolution that occurred before their tenure at Ontario Shores."

Ledger is not the first health professional to speak about the move.

Dr. Krista Lemke, Medical Director of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services at the Toronto East General Hospital, stated in a December letter that while nursing staff are equally essential team members and contribute their own unique skills, they often require additional training in child and adolescent mental health.

Lemke writes: "From a human resources perspective, this was a well-functioning team, capable of providing high quality care to a particularly vulnerable population of adolescents. It saddens me greatly to hear that this unique team no longer seems to be valued and may be largely disbanded."