Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Auditor General's Report - Mental Health Services in Nova Scotia

An excerpt for the Auditor General’s Statement to the Media today:

A second audit covered in this report was hampered to a lesser extent by the same restrictions on information. The Department of Health, under instruction from the Executive Council Office, refused to provide us information on budget requests related to mental health services.

Treatment of mental illness is a significant part of the health care system. Mental illness accounts for over 15 per cent of the disease burden in developed countries, and for 3.4 per cent of the Nova Scotia health budget.

In 2003, Nova Scotia became the first province to implement mental health service standards. The Department was aware at the time that funding levels were inadequate to achieve these standards.

When the standards were introduced, the Department acknowledged it would take five to ten years to fully achieve compliance with them. Seven years later, our audit found that the mental health service standards were met in only 14 per cent of the cases we tested; and there is no evidence of a plan or funding to close the gap.

The Department of Health has failed to meet its legislated requirement to monitor and evaluate the quality of mental health services. The lack of departmental oversight and monitoring significantly increases the risk that the mental health care system will fail the people who need it most.

The Department of Health has accepted our report and agrees with all 19 recommendations. However, the government has a poor record of implementing our recommendations. I would draw your attention to the next chapter of this report - a follow-up on the 82 recommendations we made in June 2007. To date, the government has implemented just 27 per cent of those recommendations. This is the worst performance since we began tracking government response to our recommendations in 2002.

The Department of Health was the subject of 48 of those recommendations, and accepted all but one. Two years later, 34 recommendations - 71 per cent - were still not implemented.

This is a concern given the nature of the 2007 recommendations, dealing with issues like financial and quality controls in nursing homes and equitable placement of seniors in need of care.

To access the entire Auditor General’s Report, please click here (PDF).

Also see:

Lax oversight of mental health standards, N.S. auditor says

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