Victoria Hospital unveils $7 million upgrade to enhance mental health care

Facility will become one of three mental health Centres of Excellence in Winnipeg

Posted Monday, December 17, 2018

Newly renovated mental health in-patient units at Victoria Hospital will welcome their first clients this week, representing a significant milestone in the planned reorganization of mental health services in Winnipeg.

Victoria Hospital recently underwent $7 million in renovations, as the facility prepares to become one of three Centres of Excellence for Mental Health within the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. The expanded mental health in-patient units at Victoria Hospital, which can now accommodate 75 clients, are part of a system upgrade and reorganization that will see the facility join Health Sciences Centre and St. Boniface Hospital as Winnipeg's Centres of Excellence for Mental Health, offering the full spectrum of care to mental health clients.

"The consolidation of on-site treatment and counselling spaces will enhance the effectiveness and timeliness of care for Manitobans who need it," said Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Cameron Friesen. "These improvements, which are based on best practice and respond to recommendations made in a variety of reports, show our commitment to transform Manitoba's health-care system into one that is more accessible and provides more consistent levels of care."

All Winnipeg emergency and urgent care departments will continue to offer care to clients who present with mental health concerns, and will have new patient pathways created to accommodate consults at those sites.

"Consolidation of mental health inpatient beds to three sites will ensure that patients and families receive the highest quality and standardized mental health across the three sites," said Jitender Sareen, Medical Director of the WRHA Adult Mental Health Program. "It is important for people to know that high quality, community mental health services remain available across the city, including in the Grace Hospital and Seven Oaks Hospital areas."

As part of the WRHA's Healing our Health System plan, adult mental health in-patient services in Winnipeg will now be consolidated at the three Centres of Excellence. By concentrating specific services in the right locations, sites can develop areas of focus and provide more effective and timely patient care. This move enhances on-site access to psychiatric consultations, provides better access to on-site treatment and counselling spaces, and reduces the need for client transfers between facilities.

The changes affect only adult mental health services. There has been no change with respect to child and adolescent services.  

The renovation at Victoria Hospital will facilitate the relocation of 54 existing in-patient beds from Seven Oaks General Hospital and Grace General Hospital to the facility. In-patients from those facilities will begin making the move on Dec. 18, along with clients who will also be moving from existing units at Victoria Hospital into the new space. This mobilization of patients and staff will be the largest such mobilization in the WRHA's history.

The renovated space at Victoria Hospital has been constructed to upgraded standards, and will provide a more comfortable environment for clients and their visitors, to better serve clients' needs.

"This move and this new centre of excellence are an important part of the Healing our Health System Plan" said Lori Lamont, Chief Operating Officer for the WRHA. "While we still have work to do, across the system we are now seeing real indications of improvement, which is exactly what these changes are all about. None of this would be possible without the hard work of all our adult mental health staff and physicians, and their total dedication to providing the best care possible to the clients they serve. And really that's what this announcement is all about. It's about helping people change their lives and the lives of their families for the better."

The validity of that perspective was reinforced by Emily Walker, a young woman who admitted herself to Victoria nine years ago, a decision she credits with saving her life.

"When I was in high school, I sustained a series of concussions from sport. After those concussions, I had trouble concentrating, I lived with chronic pain, and also had depression and anxiety from that point on," she said. "It was probably the lowest point of my life, where I did not want to continue to live anymore. I made the decision to ask my mom to drive me the Vic, and that decision saved my life. I'm standing here today because I took that step to keep trying and to live. It gave me a safe space where I could take the time to work on recovering and being in the moment to keep going. So I'm very grateful for that."

Walker, who is now enjoying a career as policy analyst and is planning for her upcoming wedding, added that she's pleased to see the changes at Victoria, and the added investment in mental health care.

"I think that improving and having access to mental health and being able to provide care to people when they are most vulnerable is so important, so I'm very thankful that we continue to put funds into mental health and make that a priority."

The WRHA Adult Mental Health program provides an integrated and comprehensive range of mental health services and supports across the health care continuum that promote recovery. Through collaboration and partnership across various health, social service and community sectors, the program strives to promote mental health and well-being for all, to reduce inequities and the impact of mental health problems, and to work towards sustainability of mentally healthy individuals and communities.

The program provides a range of mental health services in both community and hospital settings, and is committed to providing a responsive and inclusive system aimed to restore, promote and maintain mental health and well-being for the Winnipeg population.