Northern families are being forced to travel to Saskatoon or Regina to access child and mental health and psychiatric in-patient services as new patient admissions in Prince Albert have been halted.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority said it is addressing a staffing shortage. “The resources of at least one, full-time child and youth psychiatrist in Prince Albert are required to safely manage and support the ongoing operation of the inpatient unit in Prince Albert. Admissions to the unit were paused as of July 18, as the area’s sole child and youth psychiatrist’s resignation is effective August 6,” said the organization. \

The SHA said it is actively recruiting two full-time child and youth psychiatry positions for Prince Albert.

However Cumberland MLA and mental health advocate Doyle Vermette said the service disruption will cause undue hardship on families needing help. “It’s scary for families who are struggling already, just to try to get help for their kids when they see their kids needing help,” he said. Getting out of the Far North, and out of many of the communities or small, isolated communities, some of them don’t have family that can get them. So that’s going to be a challenge for sure.”

This is not the first time Prince Albert youth and child psychiatric services have been halted. Similar staffing issues forced a stoppage in June 2020. While the SHA did apologize for the stress and anxiety this has caused families, it is trying to reopen admissions as soon as possible, pending successful recruitment.