The region’s largest children’s hospital is reducing hours at its eating disorder clinic in the wake of the province cutting funding to a group that provides support for people afflicted with the problem.
In an interview earlier this week, Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine said people could turn to other programs for help, naming the IWK Health Centre’s eating disorder clinic.
But the Halifax hospital is reducing its eating disorder clinic’s hours from three days a week to two. As well, one of its psychologists is retiring in the next week and her position is being replaced with a part-time position.
When asked Friday about the IWK situation, Glavine said he wasn’t aware of the reduction.
“I will need to do that review to see in fact, while there may be one day less at the IWK site, we may actually have more work on the ground across Nova Scotia, but I can't confirm that until I speak with the clinicians at the IWK,” the minister said.
Eating disorders affect one in six women by the time they’re 20, according to an advocacy group.
“The new model they're trying to work on is to have the folks at the IWK work with the most severely ill kids from across the whole Maritimes,” said Shaleen Jones, co-ordinator for Eating Disorders Nova Scotia. “So, meanwhile, the kids who aren’t at death’s door are supposed to be seen by the community mental health clinics. And those clinicians have not had a lot of training.”
She fears community health workers in other parts of the province will face more work with fewer resources, and that cuts to the IWK’s program could force patients to seek treatment outside Nova Scotia.
Anne Marie Coolen’s 21-year-old daughter was diagnosed with an eating disorder when she was 15. For the last two years, she’s been in recovery.
“I feel like we’re sliding in terms of services that are available,” Coolen said. “Services are shrinking rather than growing at a time when we know that ER visits, because of people with eating disorders, have been increasing at the IWK. So I don’t understand why, when eating disorders are increasing, that these cuts are happening.”
It’s always better to intervene before a patient needs to be hospitalized, she said.
“We don’t need less peer-support for people with eating disorders in Nova Scotia. We don’t need less treatment at the IWK. We need more. Because the disease incidences are rising. We know that. We know it’s up.”
NDP health critic Dave Wilson fears the province doesn’t recognize the importance of supporting people with eating disorders.
“The government shouldn’t be looking at reducing its budget,” the MLA said. “They should be looking at increasing it.”
The province’s goal should be keeping people out of hospital. “We can't balance the budget on the backs of young people, especially young people with eating disorders. That's an area we need to expand in,” Wilson said.