Prince Albert’s newest psychiatrist excited to see child and youth inpatient unit reopen at Victoria Hospital

Prince Albert's Victoria Hospital. (Herald file photo)

Prince Albert’s newest child and adolescent psychiatrist said he’s excited to see the Child and Youth Inpatient Unit reopen at Victoria Hospital after months of closure.

Dr. Randall Zbuk arrives in Prince Albert with more than 10 years of experience in child and youth psychiatry. Since the unit shut down, patients have been redirected to youth facilities in Saskatoon and Regina.

Zbuk said there are benefits to treating patients in or near their home community instead of moving them to a different community, but that’s just one of many reasons he’s excited to get the unit back up and running.

“We deal with a lot of socially marginalized youth and a really big variety of demographics where having an acute stabilization unit for mental health purposes is absolutely essential,” he said during an interview on Friday. “(With) the high … severity of some of the cases that we see, the difficult living situations with some of the youth that we deal with, the trauma that a lot of the kids have experienced, it’s important to have an acute stabilization unit closer to where they live.”

Zbuk said the re-opened inpatient unit is vital during regular times, but the COVID-19 outbreak has made them even more important.

Public health restrictions haven’t added any major challenges to the reopening, but Zbuk said it has affected people seeking help, especially young people.

Incidents of self-harm, depression and anxiety have all been exacerbated by COVID, Zbuk explained, but patients don’t always have access to the resources or treatment they need.

Despite that sense of urgency, Zbuk said they aren’t going to rush the reopening. The goal is to get the unit back up to 10 beds, which would put it on par with similar units in Saskatoon and Regina. For the moment, however, Prince Albert will only have five.

“The goal is to get at a capacity of 10 beds,” Zbuk explained. “Right now, the unit is re-opening, (and) I want to ensure that it’s done in a safe manner. It hasn’t been running for a while, so I want to make sure we have all our processes in order, we look at how things are done and keep it a very safe environment for the kids who are there.”

Zbuk previously worked in Edmonton as a child and youth psychiatrist at the Allin Clinic. He also lectured at the University of Alberta’s department of psychiatry.

Patients from Prince Albert and the north have been sent to Saskatoon since the closure of the Victoria Hospital Child and Youth Inpatient Unit. At times, Saskatoon’s 10-bed unit included at least three to four youth from Prince Albert or the north.

Health experts in Saskatoon say Zbuk’s arrival will help ease the load across the province, which allows them to provide more effective care.

“Saskatoon was really needing to absorb the lion’s share of the child psychiatry work from not only PA, but that whole northern catchment area that would previously have gone to PA,” Saskatoon psychiatrist Dr. Tamara Hinz said. “It was really quite tiring to add to the workload. We are extremely grateful that Dr. Zbuk has started there.”

–with files from Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald