In the face of recent news out of the Lower Mainland in which two patients were discharged from a hospital in one community and transported by taxi to a homeless shelter in a different community without sufficient resources, Victoria’s situation looks different but not without its own concerns.
“A lot of the time what we see is people with real mental health issues… we send them to the hospital because we don’t have the capacity and then they are sent back right away, without the resources,” said Grant McKenzie, director of communications for Our Place Society. “The turnaround seems to be within a couple of hours.”
If police take people in to the hospital there’s a chance they might be in the mental health ward longer, McKenzie said.
“We don’t want mental health or addiction to be criminal issues, but it seems that if there’s some kind of interaction with the police they get more help,” said McKenzie. “I’ve heard of people faking suicide attempts to get admitted. It really is a cry for help.”
Island Health said that every patient is unique and so are their discharge care plans.
“Island Health provides home supports in many environments including shelters, low barrier and social housing,” said Meribeth Burton, spokesperson for Island Health. “We have outreach teams – nurses and other health professionals – who work with people in the community who lack housing.”
A 2018 study out of Simon Fraser University suggests homeless people and those with mental illness who have to be re-admitted to hospital for recurring health problems are putting a heavy burden on B.C.’s health care system.
The report said there is a need for housing to be included in discharge plans for vulnerable patients.
The Canadian Homelessness Research Network, in its 2012 report, The Real Cost of Homelessness, found that housing someone in the housing first model costs about $22,000 per year. That’s about half of the reported $50,000 per year that it costs to maintain the supports of policing, hospital, and social work for someone who is living homeless.
– with files from Nina Grossman, Ashley Wadhwani, Travis Paterson