News release

Province Acts to Better Protect Public Safety, Strengthen Patient Rehabilitation

The province is better protecting public safety and strengthening patient rehabilitation after a review of community access privileges at the East Coast Forensic Hospital released today, Sept. 18.

Government is acting on 18 recommendations made after the joint review led by the deputy ministers of Health and Wellness and Justice and the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority.

The recommendations were helped by independent experts in forensic psychiatry from Ontario and British Columbia, who concluded that Nova Scotia's policies and procedures are similar to those commonly used across Canada, but could be improved.

"Ensuring the public's safety while supporting patients' treatment and rehabilitation is the primary goal," said Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson. "We listened to the independent experts and agree there are improvements to Nova Scotia's forensic healthcare system that can, and will, be made. We must set the bar higher."

The review examined whether procedures and practices for community access were adequate, if patient supervision was sufficient and whether public notification could be improved.

The review found that Criminal Code Review Board practices were in keeping with the Criminal Code of Canada and the standards for mental health services in Nova Scotia are appropriate and consistent with national best practices.

"Government has a responsibility to improve Nova Scotia's forensic health-care system," said Justice Minister Ross Landry. "This government accepts each and every one of the recommendations and is acting to make immediate changes."

Some of the 18 actions the province is taking include:

  • requiring community access decisions consider all risks according to explicit criteria
  • suspending community access leave until a review is conducted after an incident when the patient did not return on time
  • improving documentation, transparency and accountability for community access decisions and factors that enter into them
  • providing an onsite smoking area to end unescorted offsite leaves to smoke, before a disposition hearing has been held by the Criminal Code Review Board
  • requiring increased reporting on absent-without-leave incidents to ensure policies are effectively protecting the public and patients
  • creating an oversight committee to review decisions about community access before it is granted.

The province will report on progress within six months.

The Joint Review of the East Coast Forensic Hospital's Community Access Privileges can be found online at www.gov.ns.ca/just/review_ECFH.asp .

FOR BROADCAST USE:

The province is better protecting public safety and strengthening patient rehabilitation after a review of community access privileges at the East Coast Forensic Hospital released today (September 18th).

Government is acting on 18 recommendations made after the joint review led by the deputy ministers of Health and Wellness and Justice and the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority.

Health and Wellness Minister David Wilson says ensuring the public's safety while supporting patients' treatment and rehabilitation is the primary goal.

The review found that Criminal Code Review Board practices were in keeping with the Criminal Code of Canada and the standards for mental health services in Nova Scotia are appropriate and consistent with national best practices.

Justice Minister Ross Landry says the province accepts all recommendations and is acting to make immediate changes.

The province will report on progress within six months.

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Media Contacts:

Sherri Aikenhead
Health and Wellness 902-424-7942 Cell: 902-456-6386 E-mail:
Tara Walsh
Department of Justice 902-424-6282 E-mail:
John Gillis
Capital District Health Authority Pager: 902-458-5376 E-mail: