Friday, October 30, 2015

The Riverview Reporter

Life for those with mental illness in BC in the 1990's was changing. More than one-third of the province's budget for mental health was spent on community services. There were more than 3,500 living units for people with mental health issues. Among these were family care homes, licensed specialized adult residential care facilities and semi-independent apartments.

Riverview continued to be the province's only specialized psychiatric hospital for those adults with severe and persistent mental illness even while the BC Government planned to open new mental health facilities across the province. Riverview played an important role as a teaching hospital and partnered with UBC and other hospitals as a research centre.

There has been criticism about the lack of support for those transitioning from the institution to community living by there were several initiatives put into place to assist the patients.

The first was the Bridging Program. This program connected patients with people and services in the community. Mental health agencies used cottages on the Riverview grounds as semi-independent housing to help patients adjust to a more independent living arrangements. 

The Greater Vancouver/ Riverview Hospital Transition Team would assess which patients were ready to move and help them find suitable accommodations and community supports, staying in touch with them for up to three months following discharge.

Then there was the psycho-social rehabilitation: Introduced at Riverview in 1996, the Psycho-social Rehabilitation Program prepared patients for life outside of the institution. By involving patients and/or families in developing treatment goals and care plans, psycho-social rehabilitation helps people develop life skills that will help them succeed when they return to the community.

More patients transferred into the community and the population at Riverview declined even more. In 1992, the Crease Clinic was the second large building on the grounds to close.

The  Riverview Reporter newsletter was another change. During the 50's and 60's, the Leader newsletter focused on patient's activities and life at the mental institution. The newsletter's successor, the Riverview Reporter, was a different publication. In the April/May 1992 issue, there were articles on child rearing, nutrition, recycling, the ozone layer, the drug trade and educational opportunities.

Saturday is Halloween. I hope you all fun but please, stay safe and watch out for those little ghosts and goblins making their rounds. Remember they may run out into traffic so please drive slow. We don't want any tragedies. And clocks go back an hour giving the spirits an extra hour to haunt us.

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Patient's Charter of Rights

Throughout the 1990's, the volunteer association at Riverview continued to work hard. They helped to improve the quality of life for the residents of Riverview and even helped when the patients were discharged.

The Tea House, the Deli Training Program, the Post Office and the Tuck Shop were all run by volunteers, as were the fundraising events like the Strawberry Tea and Fashion Show and Casino night.

The team at Riverview became known for their readiness to share their expertise with the fledgling mental health care units in the community. Many of the staff transferred to the community based facilities. Their focus was on providing compassionate care for the patents.

This multi-disciplinary approach was entrenched at Riverview by the 1990's. There was increased cooperation between medical staff, nurses, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers and others, ensuring the best care possible for the patients.

“One of the biggest advances was when we started to work more closely in teams. In the early days, there was a rivalry between the different disciplines. Nurses, occupational therapists, recreational therapists—were a bit competitive with each other. The team approach evolved over time, and it worked very well.” 

Fred Bennett Nursing staff member 1961-2003

During this decade, the approach to patient care was evolving. In 1988, patients in mental institutions won the right to vote in national elections and it was becoming more and more apparent that patients should have more of a say in how they were treated.

The provincial Ombudsman conducted and 18-month investigation in 1993/94. They were looking into administrative fairness in response to concerns voiced by patients, families and community advocates. The final report, Listening, a Review of Riverview Hospital emphasized the need for the hospital to listen to patients and be accountable to those it serves. The report concluded:

“Riverview Hospital has not had in place the kind of comprehensive, receptive and fair mechanism for responding to concerns about its service that must exist in a psychiatric hospital.”

There were 94 recommendations laid out by the Ombudsman's report. These included the appointment of a Mental Health advocate and increased patients' rights in a number of areas. Many of the recommendations were adopted in a short time such as the development of a Patient's Sexuality Policy and a Charter of Patient's Rights. Riverview was the first psychiatric hospital in Canada to initiate such programs.

The Charter of Patient's Rights was created by a Joint Task Force made up of patients, staff and community advocates. This was a ground- breaking initiative that focused on three main areas: Quality of Life/Social Rights, Quality of Care/ Therapeutic and Self-Determination/ Legal Rights.

“The Charter compelled a lot of people to look at patients in a more humanitarian way. For instance, Crease Clinic had people in wards with windows that looked out over the highway and the railway. We’d think, how can anyone possibly sleep in those rooms with all that noise? So we included a clause in the Charter about having a restful sleeping area. And steps were taken to make sure there was a more restful place for people to sleep.”

Val Adolph Chair of the Joint Task Force and Director of Volunteers at Riverview, 1990-94

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

Monday, October 26, 2015

Closer to Home

“Did you know we’re not getting enough people out to the activities here at Penn Hall? No one goes on the outings and no one comes for coffee anymore. Did you know that they serve coffee here in the mornings? There’s also leaves and dinner outings that you can go to if you ask the Penn Hall staff. There’s swimming on Wednesday nights and softball on Thursday nights. There’s bicycling and Indian and Japanese cultural meetings. Have a game of chess or cribbage with Francis. He’s really good at it you know. He’ll play anyone. Check it out and come to Penn Hall.”

The Riverview Reporter, August 1987

During the 1980's, the Riverview Recreation Department offered games, clubs and activities and many of these ran out of Pen Hall.

Life wasn't all fun and games at Riverview though. Patients were encouraged to learn a job skill that would prepare them for life once the returned to life on the outside.

A list of Vocational Services from 1987 includes these job openings:

• Sewing machine operator: repairing diapers in the Vocational Services Workshop

• Office assistant, Henry Esson Young Building

• Activity therapy assistant at Hillside, Fernwood and North Lawn

• Entertainer for Penn Hall Music Therapy

Patients participating in these jobs were paid, an incentive allowance. Starting wage was $30 bi-weekly. If they stayed in the position, they would get raises. Up to $180 a month.

In 1988, Riverview celebrated its 75th anniversary. There were tours and seminars, an 18-float parade, a barbecue and dances over the four-day celebration.

In 1990, the BC Government's Mental Health Initiative was introduced. This was 10-year plan to replace Riverview with smaller, more specialized regional facilities. Some of Riverview's staff and resources were allocated to the different facilities. Riverview would still exist but as a smaller, more specialized centre of excellence.

The Report of the Royal Commission on Health Care and Costs - "Closer to Home" - was released the following year and it supported this move.

“Community transfers had a huge impact on Riverview. We had to overcome the doubt that patients could succeed in the community—people were apprehensive here and they were apprehensive in the community, too. In the early days, the community mental health centres did everything they could to manage people but if they couldn’t, they’d call Riverview. And Riverview would do whatever possible to accommodate people. It wasn’t seen as anything exceptional. They were our patients. We’d take care of them, we’d respect them and we wouldn’t judge them.”

Anna Tremere 1967 graduate, Riverview nurse for 37 years

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill