WINNIPEG - The provincial government is announcing a new system meant to ensure that every rural and remote emergency department and First Nations community has access to psychiatric care.
Mental Health, Wellness, and Recovery Minister Audrey Gordon says telepsychiatry will enable real-time care through secure videoconferencing. “Right now, there is a need for adult emergency telepsychiatry services in First Nations communities and rural emergency departments and nursing stations,” Gordon explains. “This investment will ensure people experiencing mental health issues can have access to psychiatric support that is timely, efficient, and reliable.”
The minister says, for too many Manitobans, access to care has required transportation out of their community. Getting a timely psychiatric assessment during a mental health crisis can be particularly challenging. Being able to access mental wellness services virtually will allow for more immediate support, without detaching individuals from their local support network.
The province says the program will deploy secure video conferencing equipment to connect people in real time with the support and resources they need, as well as psychiatric assessments. It’s intended to start with between 350 and 500 patients across the province every year, and is expected to help reduce the need for medical transport and hospital admission.
Gordon says clinical providers, such as those involved in a study at Victoria Hospital using telepresence robots, have been reporting the benefits of patients being able to receive care at home or closer to home. She says new treatment options will improve equity as well as access.
The telepsychiatry system will cost the province around $342,000 to set up.