Due to a lack of places in the Sacré-Coeur child psychiatry center in Quebec, two teenagers struggling with suicidal thoughts spent a week in the psychiatric emergency room of the Laval University Hospital Center (CHUL). Their “bedroom” neighbours? Adults in crisis, sometimes handcuffed, upon arrival.
The parents of these young people, to whom The duty spoke, are indignant that children in distress can undergo such treatment.
Chantal’s daughter, whose real name we are keeping secret in order to protect her identity, stayed eight days in the CHUL psychiatric emergency room in May. The 14-year-old girl could not be transferred to the Sacré-Coeur child psychiatry center of the CIUSSS in the national capital, because no bed was available there.
“Two days, I wouldn’t have cared. But then, on the eighth day, it was too much. It makes no sense to leave children who are already not doing well in a situation like this,” her mother said.
Chantal’s daughter has been taking medication for an anxiety disorder and has been seeing a psychologist for about six months. It was the first time she had been in a psychiatric emergency due to suicidal thoughts. At the CHUL, this unit welcomes adults and adolescents aged 14 and over. “We agree, they are adults with serious psychological problems, like schizophrenics. There are people who arrive in handcuffs, ”says the mother.
Chantal did try to get her daughter out of this small closed unit without windows and whose beds and stretchers are separated by curtains. “I said, ‘Can you at least take him to the cafeteria, at least get out of here, see a window? It’s been eight days since she can walk for 30 seconds [pour] walk around the unit.” Impossible, replied the staff.
Chantal contacted the complaints commissioner of the CIUSSS of the national capital; the health establishment manages the CHUL’s psychiatric services. She also contacted her MP. She says she “doesn’t understand why no contingency plan” has been put in place to transfer young people more quickly to the Sacré-Coeur child psychiatry center. After eight days in the psychiatric emergency room, her daughter finally got a place there.
Nearly 170 hours in the psychiatric emergency
“It took 169 hours 50 minutes. Pascal, whose real name we are also concealing in order to protect his child’s identity, calculated to the minute the length of his 17-year-old son’s stay in the CHUL psychiatric emergency room. Her son, who had suicidal thoughts, stayed there for seven days.
“We were still pretty good with him,” said the father. The more the days progressed, the more his condition deteriorated. Being locked up all day is not great. »
For Pascal, mixing adults and adolescents in a psychiatric emergency is inconceivable. During her son’s stay, up to eight teenagers were in the unit at one time. “There are things you see there that, in principle, a teenager of that age shouldn’t see,” he said. It is also the fact of not even seeing the outside light. »
Like Chantal, Pascal complained to the complaints commissioner of the CIUSSS of the national capital and called his deputy. He testifies in The duty so that this situation does not happen again.
Asked about this, the CIUSSS indicates that the average length of stay for young clients in the CHUL psychiatric emergency room is approximately 20 hours. According to the health establishment, the month of May is “often a busier month, with the end of the school year”. “Last week, we experienced an exceptional situation,” we wrote in an email.
Between the 1er and May 11, 55 young people presented themselves to the CHUL psychiatric emergency room, according to the establishment. “Two teenagers had to stay in the emergency room for about six and a half days to receive care and ensure their safety, since the beds at the Sacré-Coeur child psychiatry center were all occupied. The medical and psychiatric care team decided to keep them in the emergency room, the risks of a return home being too great. »
According to the CIUSSS, no young person was in the psychiatric emergency room awaiting a transfer to Sacré-Coeur on Tuesday afternoon. The health establishment assures that the teams of the psychiatric emergency and the Sacré-Coeur center assess “daily” the condition and the file of the patients in order to determine if they can “return safely” to the house and, thus, freeing up beds. Young people are also referred to outpatient clinics to avoid having to go to the emergency room.