Legislators have raised the red flag on the proposed long-term residential mental health facility after discovering acute services were not included in the plans for the $15 million project.

These services are used for patients with urgent but non-emergency medical conditions.

Concerns about the absence of the services were brought up in Finance Committee last week and have prompted Health Minister Dwayne Seymour to say he will meet with the project’s steering committee to revisit the services available at the East End facility.

Contracts have already been awarded for the project, which is expected to open in 2021.

Seymour appeared unaware of the absence of acute services as he told legislators when he took over as minister the project was already advanced, and he was focussed on getting shovels in the ground.

He said he hoped to meet with the officials on the project to determine whether the services can be included in the facility and report to the House.

North Side MLA Ezzard Miller raised the issue of the absence of the key services as he questioned the $6.9 million allocation for mental health services in the 2020/2021 budget cycle.

“We are building a residential facility, but we are going to keep the acute care in George Town separate from the residential facility?” Miller asked, as he questioned the funding being set aside for mental health care services. Health Services Authority CEO Lizette Yearwood confirmed this was the case.

“The residential facility is going to be in East End and will not be under the management of the HSA,” she told the Finance Committee Friday.

She said the current acute care facility will remain at the George Town hospital.
Yearwood explained that should anyone be in need of acute care, that patient will be transported to George Town.

After Miller pressed further on the management of the facility, she said the ministry is still discussing whether the authority would manage the facility.

Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly shared Miller’s concern over the omission of acute services in the plan.

“It is not only the member for North Side who was anticipating acute services in East End. Everyone was so excited that we were getting a one-stop shop, so I am certainly a little bit alarmed,” O’Connor-Connolly said as she questioned the policy both for the project and mental health overall.

Janett Flynn, senior policy advisor in the Health Ministry, explained that the policy was to get the facility to reduce the need to send patients overseas for care and bring those who were being treated abroad closer to their families.

O’Connor-Connolly pressed for more information, questioning where was “the phantom policy”.

Flynn said Cabinet has endorsed the mental health policy, which includes development of the long-term facility.

She said there are between 12 and 15 patients receiving long-term care in Jamaica and the plan was to bring these individuals home to be closer to their families.

She added that the services those patients were receiving were more like a home away from home rather than a programme of care that assists them in becoming independent.
Yearwood pointed out that the demand for mental health services has increased.

“We are seeing that tide shift now and more patients are accessing care and the acute care services obviously is burdened until the residential services come online. We have a number of residential patients that are still at the acute level,” she told legislators. Finance Committee continues in the Legislative Assembly Wednesday.