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Mother not happy with hospital

Lyndsay Herman
Northern News Services
Published Friday, July 27, 2012

The mother of a man who stabbed himself in the Stanton Territorial Hospital kitchen three years ago is not happy with how recommendations made in an external review of the incident have been addressed.

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Margaret Leishman, a Kakisa resident, sits in her room at a local bed and breakfast while visiting her son who is a patient in the extended care unit at Stanton Territorial Hospital. - NNSL file photo

"Very little was done," said Margaret Leishman. "I continue to write letters for some action and for change and that's not happening. I'm really frustrated."

Two recommendations resulted from the review last year. The first was that the hospital hire "special constables" or specially trained guards who would be prepared to deal with different types of patients at the hospital. The second recommendation was a request for municipalities and health authorities to work together to encourage family members to accompany patients to the hospital.

The Department of Health and Social Services declined Yellowknifer's request for an interview but instead e-mailed a statement regarding the recommendations and extended care at Stanton.

The e-mail states the department, in consultation with the Department of Justice, decided developing special constables for the hospital was "not an appropriate approach" and instead created a "renewed protocol to respond to patient issues within the hospital" with the RCMP. The department was unable to provide more detail on the protocol before press deadline.

In regards to the second recommendation, the response states the Department of Health and Social Services wrote letters to the CEOs of the territorial Health and Social Services Authorities and to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs requesting the recommendation be communicated to ambulance providers, hamlets, municipalities, and affected people.

Leishman's son, Allisdair Leishman, 39, suffers from a serious brain injury as a result of stabbing himself in the chest with a kitchen knife, which has left him mute and has limited his mobility, according to Margaret.

Margaret uses an iPad to play games and communicate with Allisdair, since he can hear, comprehend and respond manually to some questions. He also participates in the hospital's yoga program twice per week while seated in a wheelchair.

She said her son responds to many rehabilitation exercises but is concerned the resources are not available at Stanton for his care to continue and that the lack of stimulus available in extended care at Stanton is degrading his condition.

"Those kinds of things I've been doing on my own with my son but I'm really angry because the North is not equipped to deal with people in my son's condition," said Margaret. "There should be a rehab centre in the North. We can't wait for the government forever because the more that you wait, my son will regress instead of progressing."

Daryl Dolynny, MLA for Range Lake, said the mental health strategy tabled by the GNWT in June is a reflection of national and territorial interest in improving care for mental illness in the North.

"The unfortunate thing is now that we've identified the various areas we need to improve upon, tying financial dollars and budget dollars to those initiatives is actually the tricky part," Dolynny said. "When you're talking about what we can do for mental health, obviously having proper people and proper professionals in those areas is always going to be the first and foremost."

Allisdair spent four months at The Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury in Ponoka, Alta., last fall where he received daily physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises, his mother said, but now that he is back at Stanton, "if Allisdair gets 20 minutes (of physiotherapy) a week he's lucky."

She said she understands the hospital only has two hours of physiotherapy services available per month to allocate among patients.

The e-mailed statement from the health department states there are eight physiotherapists and seven speech language pathologists on staff at Stanton Territorial Hospital and patients receive treatment based on their treatment plans. It also states that staff in the extended care unit interact with patients regularly by reading, reminiscing over photos, going for walks or playing cards.

"Between physiotherapy visits, other staff or the patient's themselves, perform daily exercises as outlined in the patient's care plan," the e-mail states.

Margaret said she participates in monthly meetings with the various doctors and program administrators who are involved in Allisdair's care but finds that initiatives fall by the wayside if she isn't following up herself.

Her dedication to Allisdair's care brings her from Kakisa to Yellowknife every two weeks for two weeks, a cost and time burden for which she receives little help. But the distance is of little concern to Margaret, who said she'd be happy to relocate down south if the opportunity presented itself for Allisdair to return to a specialized facility like the Centennial Centre.

"I would rather he is offered the best rehab centre wherever," she said.

"They don't take my letters seriously but I mean business for my son. I'm not going to give up and die and crawl under the table. What I believe in is very strong and people that are elected are there to help make it easier for us and if it means stepping outside of policy to make changes, to make it better for the people like my son, that's what I expect of them."

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