Treatment 'disturbing'

An independent report that warned people with disabilities were being unjustly confined in a Nova Scotia psychiatric hospital is being described as "startling and disturbing" by a law professor at Dalhousie University.

Archie Kaiser, who teaches at the Schulich School of Law, said the province should have found housing in the community with supports for the residents, after the review was delivered to senior health officials almost 13 years ago.

"Nova Scotia should apologize for its failure," Kaiser wrote in an email.

"Responsible ministers should take responsibility for the inaction of successive governments following the review. This has been a shameful and deplorable situation for citizens who deserve our support to live with us in the community."

The April 2006 review by Dorothy Griffiths and Dr. Chrissoula Stavrakaki emerged last week at a human rights inquiry.

The inquiry is looking at whether 45-year-old Joseph Delaney and 46-year-old Beth MacLean should be permitted to move from the hospital-like settings into small homes where assistance is provided for meals, mental health and other care.

Delaney is still at the Nova Scotia Hospital's Emerald Hall, while MacLean, who spent almost 15 years in the locked psychiatric ward, was moved to a transition unit two years ago, after she launched the complaint.

A third complainant, Sheila Livingstone, died as the case wound its way through various delays, but her story will be told by family members and the complainants' lawyer.

The report by Griffiths and Stavrakaki said at least half of the 19 patients were staying in the locked-door facility — and "some were being held against their wishes" — because the province wasn't providing a community home with support.

"The situation is clearly confinement without justification ... A non-disabled person in the province of Nova Scotia who experienced an acute mental illness and recovered would not likely be held in a locked psychiatric ward for up to 10 or more years post recovery," the consultants wrote at the time, just months after former Tory premier Rodney MacDonald came into power.

The authors said there was "a feeling of hopelessness for the individuals who live in the unit" and added that dedicated and committed staff were "feeling demoralized regarding the rules and outcomes."

"This failure to return these individuals to a less restrictive environment is inhumane and a class action lawsuit waiting to happen."

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