Montfort Hospital gets special mental health emergency zone

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Montfort Hospital is building a separate mental health zone inside its emergency department to help deal with the high volume of patients arriving there for mental health reasons.

The hospital has begun a $2-million community fundraising drive to help pay for the mental health emergency zone, which is scheduled to open in the fall.

Montfort, located on Montreal Road, sees proportionately about twice as many patients needing mental health care as other hospitals in Ottawa and across Ontario. That accounts for about eight per cent of all emergency department visits, hospital officials say.

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The new mental health zone will better support patients and staff, hospital president and CEO Dominic Giroux said. Work on the new emergency zone has already begun.

Giroux said the need was too great to wait, but there has been a lot of interest from donors.

“I think people understand the pressures emergency departments generally are under,” he said. “They understand that the prevalence of mental health needs has increased over the last few years and our front-line care teams need the type of support the mental health zone will allow us to provide.”

The zone will include a mental health nurse on duty 24 hours a day, soothing lighting and music and special sensory rooms with beanbag chairs instead of stretchers, all aimed at reducing anxiety and stress.

“We want to recreate an environment that looks more like daily life rather than a hospital,” said Jocelyn Veillard, director of the hospital’s mental health program. He said the zone “will enable patients to be treated with respect for their dignity.”

Montfort Hospital
Montfort Hospital sees proportionately about twice as many patients needing mental health care as other hospitals in Ottawa and across Ontario. Photo by Jean Levac /POSTMEDIA

The mental health emergency zone is also aimed reducing workplace violence. The hospital already has a security guard in the emergency department 24 hours a day, which allows rapid intervention if needed to protect patients and staff, said Dr. Francis Dubé, who heads Montfort’s emergency department. That will continue in the new unit, which is a “more appropriate setting.”

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Veillard said it was hoped the environment would help to reduce incidents of violence in the emergency department.

Montfort has 60 in-patient beds dedicated to mental health patients, about three times as many as Queensway Carleton Hospital, which is a comparable size.

The high number of patients seeking mental health treatment in Montfort’s emergency department reflects ongoing substance use and mental health crises in society as well as high levels of need in surrounding communities, hospital officials say.

“I live it every day,” Dubé said of issues around substance use. “It is our daily life.”

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