Services being enhanced despite psychiatrist’s exit, Vienneau says

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NEW GLASGOW — The remaining local psychiatrist says service is being strengthened despite the departure of the area’s other psychiatrist.

Dr. Theresa Vienneau, who practises in New Glasgow but is also the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s department head of psychiatry for the Northern Zone that includes hospitals in New Glasgow, Truro and Amherst, acknowledged the resignation of Pictou County’s lone full-time psychiatrist. But she downplayed reports of dire prospects for patients who need psychiatric and related services.

Vienneau officially devotes 60 per cent of her time to treating patients and the remainder heading the zone.

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“It’s very unfortunate about that information,” she said. “It made it seem everyone is leaving and it certainly caused a lot of angst, but I have been offering psychiatry in New Glasgow for 12 years and I will continue to be here.”

Vienneau said recruitment is ongoing to raise the approved total of four psychiatrists in the area.

“Recruitment is such an important endeavour,” she said. “In New Glasgow, we’ve always had the approval to recruit four full-time people but that’s never happened all the time I’ve been here.”

She said the workload for her has been “fairly constant” since she arrived in 2005 but noted the other resources — such as that of social workers, psychologists and crisis response team members in the hospital’s emergency department — who also address patients’ needs.

“It’s not just me,” she said. “We deliver what services people need. It’s possible a patient will not see a psychiatrist. It’s not uncommon for a patient to see a psychiatrist briefly and then be referred back to a family physician. We ensure patients’ needs and protect the services we have to offer.”

She said staff is being put in place to maintain and improve mental health and addictions services and added there are no plans to move services to Truro.

She also said an enhanced outpatient opioid treatment program will open “in the very near future,” in New Glasgow.

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Steve Goodwin was born in Amherst, N.S. and has been a journalist for more than 40 years. He has been a resident of Pictou County for nearly 40 years.