The NDP is calling on the government to address the lack of child psychiatrists and psychiatric beds in Prince Albert, citing a significant negative impact on families in the north and the rest of the province.  

“The people of Prince Albert and the north have been let down by a government that hasn’t put the proper supports in place,” said NDP Mental Health and Addictions Critic Danielle Chartier. “The services provided by child psychiatrists are desperately needed, but the government’s response has been just more austerity, which means more cuts and claw backs for the services families rely on.”

Prince Albert currently has no working child psychiatrists to serve the city or the area and as a result, the Prince Albert Child and Youth Mental Health Inpatient Unit was forced to close. Saskatoon Child Psychiatrist Dr. Tamara Hinz took to social media yesterday to detail the impact that the closure in Prince Albert has had on child psychiatric services in the province. 

The shortage of Child Psychiatrists has been a long-standing issue, with concerns about the supply of child psychiatrists dating back to 2016. In 2017, the wait time to see a child psychiatrist was two years in Saskatoon and the former children’s advocate described the wait for child and youth mental health care as “shameful.”

According to CIHI, Saskatchewan’s mental health hospitalization rate for children and youth is the second highest of all the provinces and Saskatchewan is tied for last place in numbers of psychiatrists treating children and youth. The number of children and youth hospitalized for mental health in Saskatchewan has doubled in the last decade, the highest rate of growth in the country.

In late August, Prince Albert Northcote MLA Nicole Rancourt wrote to the Minister of Health to address this unacceptable service disruption; however, she has yet to receive a response. With students heading back to school amid a pandemic, children’s mental health needs are set to get worse, and the situation in the north is particularly acute. 

“The government says they are concerned about children’s mental health, but they are willing to send back children to overcrowded and underfunded classrooms in the middle of a pandemic with the worst back-to-school plan in the country,” Chartier said. “The people of Saskatchewan deserve a government that will put people first and fix these issues instead of leaving them to pay the terrible price.”