Message from the Ombudsman (February 26, 2015)

Ombudsman Looks into Mental Health Services at Canadian Forces Base Shilo

In October 2014, our Office was made aware of a lapse in mental health services at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Shilo, Manitoba, caused by the sudden departure of the base’s only psychiatrist. Members’ therapeutic care was interrupted for approximately two months while they waited to receive care in Winnipeg – a five hour round-trip from Shilo.

As access to mental health services is a significant focus for this Office, we sent one of our senior investigators to the Shilo area to meet with serving members, spouses, unit and base leadership, and health services personnel. It was important that we gain a thorough understanding of the situation from the CFB Shilo community.

Our investigator found the base health services group to be an organization dedicated to meeting the health care needs of its community. After the contract with the sole psychiatrist at CFB Shilo was suddenly ended, the health services group acted swiftly and responsibly under the circumstances and in the interest of member care. They informed all members directly impacted and made arrangements for alternative care at the Operational Stress Injury Clinic in Winnipeg. Our investigator also learned that mental health services at this clinic are highly regarded, but the five hour round-trip from Shilo was viewed as a significant barrier to seeking treatment.

CFB Shilo members have contributed to extended operations in Afghanistan and are in growing need of mental health services. This increasing demand, along with the known challenges of attracting and retaining health care providers at a small, isolated base such as Shilo, supports the need to create a more solid service delivery in the area. Establishing a Brandon satellite clinic for the well-regarded Deer Lodge Operational Stress Injury clinic in Winnipeg was brought up by members of the CFB Shilo military community as a possible solution to better serve the needs of CFB Shilo-based personnel. I have shared this observation with senior military leadership in both Shilo and Ottawa.

My Office will continue to track concerns stemming from CFB Shilo and will continue to liaise with members as well as unit, base, and health services leadership in order to help improve the welfare of the men and women stationed there. If you, or someone you know, have any questions or concerns, I encourage you to contact our Office. We’re ready to help.

Gary Walbourne

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