Mental-health patients at Alberta Hospital will no longer get free toothbrushes, face soap, sanitary napkins, coffee or snacks after Alberta Health Services stopped covering the cost.
For those unfamiliar, the Alberta Hospital is the provinces primary mental health hospital. If somebody's mental health issues are serious enough to require hospitalization, then chances are they have very limited - if any - resources at all.
Tadra Boulton, spokeswoman for Alberta Health Services, said Alberta Hospital Edmonton was the only hospital in the province supplying patients with personal hygiene items and with slippers or sunscreen for comfort. That cost the system $70,000 each year.
Cutting that was "part of aligning and standardizing our supplies across the province," Boulton said. "In other hospitals and care facilities, patients bring in their own items or they have their own family bring in their own items."
Do I really need to point out that there are significant differences between mental health hospitalization and acute care hospitalization? If I go into hospital for surgery, chances are that I will be released within a few days. If I'm hospitalized for mental health issues, chances are that it isn't a well defined "few days" to stabilize the situation.
Even more distressing is that mental health issues often result in long term poverty for the afflicted because of a combination of inability to work consistently (or at all) and the collective misconception society has about mental illness in general.
"They're such a vulnerable group and frequently they are folks who lack financial resources to support themselves in the community, let alone when they're in the hospital," Harrison said. Often, their families have broken apart because of the burden of mental illness.
"Gosh, this seems like one more stress and pressure for the families and patients who are already stressed due to their illness and the burden on the family but also about the uncertainty about the future of Alberta Hospital Edmonton," Harrison said.
Once again, the Stelmach government is balancing its budget by attacking those who are among the most vulnerable in our society, and those who have little or no political voice.