Photo of Kim Kurschinski and Daniel Chilton wearing masks
Kim Kurschinski, supervisor, mental health and Daniel Chilton, RN, mental health

MGH creates new assessment area to improve wait times for individuals seeking mental health care

In late 2019, COVID-19 emerged as a deadly virus in Wuhan, China and subsequently began to spread across the globe. In anticipation of a global pandemic, including local spread here in Toronto, it was vital that Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) strategize how it could increase its capacity within the emergency department to assess those under investigation for COVID-19, while also maintaining a safe environment for patients seeking other forms of care.

As part of its COVID-19 response, the hospital opened a new Mental Health Assessment Area (MHAA). The goal of the MHAA is to provide a safe, segregated space for patients who are in crisis to wait to receive a mental health assessment and also help to alleviate pressures within the hospital’s emergency department during and after the pandemic.

MGH’s MHAA, which has the capacity to support five patients at a time, is located within the hospital’s outpatient mental health department. The unit is supported by a skilled multidisciplinary team which includes registered nurses (RN), crisis workers and psychiatrists.

Daniel Chilton, RN, is one of the nurses who was asked to helped set up the new area and is now helping provide care to those seeking mental healthcare during.

 “At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we initially saw a decrease in the number of people accessing mental health services," says Daniel. "However, with physical and social distancing efforts in place, we are now seeing an increase in those accessing our services due to isolation, depression and substance use. This new unit helps to improve safety for both patients and staff, expedite patient assessments and helps get people the care and attention they need.”

Since opening, the MHAA has helped reduced the average time patients spend waiting in the emergency department for mental health assessments by 3 hours and 22 minutes.

“Many great minds came together to create this area including staff from inpatient mental health, crisis intervention, the emergency department, infection prevention and control and facilities management,"  says mental health supervisor Kim Kurschinski. "Prior to opening we had to ensure that all the appropriate systems were in place for clinical operations like charting, medication administration, patient safety and communication amongst internal teams. From a grassroots level, our staff helped us to identify everything we needed to be successful from day one and as we move forward, we continue to make changes to ensure ongoing quality improvement. The collaboration I have seen amongst teams during this pandemic has been truly remarkable. I am so amazed and so grateful to all workers at MGH.”

After an individual receives an assessment within MGH’s MHAA, a person will either be discharged from the hospital or admitted into the adult mental health inpatient unit for further care and treatment. For more information about mental health services at MGH, click here.

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