Quebec improving delivery of mental health care?

Letter to the Editor of the Montreal Gazette.

Quebec’s Minister of Health and Social Services, Philippe Couillard, trumpets his government’s injection of $56 million in new funding for the province’s beleaguered mental health system (Gazette, “Quebec making great strides in mental health”, 2006-5-15). This is very timely, as a report entitled “Hospital Mental Health Services in Canada 2002–2003” published last year by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, points out that the average length of stay related to mental illness in general hospitals was 59 days in Quebec, compared to only 26 days for all of Canada, and to about 15 days for all of Canada except Quebec. Does this mean that Quebec patients with mental disorders are 4 times sicker than patients in the Rest of Canada, or does it mean that the brand name medications which Quebec is fond of using (Gazette, “Quebecers pay too much for medicine”, 2006-5-12) take longer than generic drugs to work?

In any case, the length of stay data suggest that Quebec has too many psychiatry beds, with too low a turnover. Reducing length of hospital admissions would free up resources which could be used to provide faster access to outpatient care.

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