Foreseeable consequences of reducing psychological services at St. Mary's Hospital - Patients at high risk of suicide no longer have access to psychotherapy

MONTRÉAL, June 26, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - While the Québec institute on excellence in health and social services (Institut national de l'excellence en santé et en services sociaux - INESSS) concluded a study commissioned by the Liberal government, recommending fair and equitable access to all public psychotherapy services, patients in distress at St. Mary's Hospital are left to fend for themselves because of budget cuts imposed by that same government.

Elimination of a psychologist's position at St. Mary's last May soon had grave repercussions, starting with a substantial increase in waiting lists for psychotherapy. "People referred by a psychiatrist who were seen within a month now face a minimum wait time of nine months before being assessed. And that's not counting the wait time for follow-up services", reports Josée Asselin, union spokesperson for the APTS, which represents professionals and technicians at St. Mary's.

And there's more. A third of the professional resources on the team have been cut. As a result, the crisis counselling service, which is supposed to rapidly make contact with individuals who are actively suicidal or a danger to themselves, no longer takes new patients. "Without this lifeline - the connection between a psychologist and a patient – individuals whose mental health problems render them more vulnerable are exposed to risks of emotional collapse, and the consequences can be dramatic," explained the union spokeswoman. "They may end up in the emergency department or the psychiatric unit, or they may take more drastic measures. This crisis counselling program was created precisely to reduce the suicide mortality rate."

Moves to reduce psychological health services are also jeopardizing group therapy, which is known to be particularly effective for people with personality disorders. This program had been offered at St. Mary's for the past 15 years and was very popular. Through group training sessions guided by psychologists, participants learned how to control their self-destructive behaviour more effectively. What will happen to the group that was supposed to initiate a series of sessions in the fall?

The INESSS report exposes the inequity of the situation, highlighting the fact that those who can afford to pay for psychotherapy can get it, while those who are unable to pay have no other choice but medication. "If the government doesn't follow the advice that it specifically sought for itself, we might conclude that it has opted for a two-tier system of mental health care for the Québec population," stated Josée Asselin.


The APTS is a public-sector union representing 32 000 health and social service professionals and technicians throughout Québec. They include medical technologists, recreational technicians, medical imaging technologists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, psycho-educators, physical rehabilitation therapists, social workers, psychologists and dietitian-nutritionists.


SOURCE Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS)

For further information: Chantal Mantha, Communications officer, Telephone: 514.236.9287

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Alliance du personnel professionnel et technique de la santé et des services sociaux (APTS)

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