No Beating Around the Bush

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He’s been described as a visionary with a penetrating intellect. Dr. Haydn Bush smiles at that description, but the new site chief at Regional Mental Health Care London knows that a vision is just what the mental health care system needs. “Front line workers have to be involved in the development and implementation,” he says. “It can’t come from the top down.”

Dr. Bush knows of what he speaks. Having arrived in London late last year via North Bay and St. John New Brunswick, he brings with him a wealth of first hand knowledge when it comes to mental health reform. In St. John, he was Chief of Psychiatry at the oldest psychiatric hospital in the country. His mandate was to reform the mental health system in 48 months. In St. John, the community mental health system was a civil service department of government with the rest under the governance of a hospital corporation. Neither side had talked to each other in years. With few resources to work with, but the added bonus of a provincial health ministry determined to get the job done, Haydn realized the true meaning of team-based care. “Psychiatrists could only be consultants because we had so few to work with and front line staff, many non-clinical, had to be trained to do more.” He learned to constantly listen to his staff and worked with them to find new ways of dealing with numerous issues. Haydn says letting staff “feel challenged and part of the process” was a key to a good outcome. According to Dr. James O’Brien, Chief of Staff for Atlantic Health Sciences Corporation, “Dr. Bush has been instrumental in creating a framework for care delivery that is patient focused and invites partnership and cooperation between hospital-based psychiatric services and community mental health programs.”

A chance to move back to Ontario and closer to London, where Haydn had resided for a number of years when he was head of the London Regional Cancer Centre, brought about “a little more than I bargained for.” North Bay Psychiatric Hospital’s mental health clinic had been closed to new patients for more than two years and the plan was to reopen the doors again. However, as the only psychiatrist for the clinic, a staff of five and 36-hundred patients on the books, this would be no easy task. Using the knowledge he gained from St. John in engaging staff, he looked to them to rise to the challenge. He trained the staff to do assessments, started a rapid response team, and worked with many community partners to form new partnerships and bring about better service to clients.

According to Nathalie Ouellette, Program Manager for Mental Health and Addictions at North Bay General and a great admirer of Haydn’s strong support of client-centred services, “He offered psychotherapy to most whom for the first time were able to make appropriate responsible changes and moving on with their lives.” As much change as he was able to bring to mental health in North Bay, Hadyn knew it would not be sustainable without a massive infusion of resources. That infusion and the question surrounding divestment of the psychiatric hospital made him realize that he just “couldn’t see salvation.”

Haydn has never lost his passion for his work nor his compassion for his many patients/clients. In coming to London he says he has a good sense of the challenges ahead. Working alongside Kristine Diaz, Director of Specialized Adult Programs London, they are constantly out in the community meeting with many other mental health care providers to find ways of working together to solve issues. He and Diaz have regular meetings with their staff to discuss internal concerns and work together to find solutions. Diaz describes Haydn as someone who, “brings a breath of experience in other provinces and understands the importance of community mental health.”

With Haydn Bush, what you see is what you get – a passionate optimist who doesn’t beat around the bush to getting the job done.

Although he’s excited about the future, Haydn does have his concerns such as, “timelines being governed by bureaucratic and political processes that perhaps still has the 1960’s illusion that community based mental health care delivery is cheaper than institutional care.” He goes on to explain, “Forty-five years of research based on good evidence says this is not the case.” He does feel that St. Joseph’s has done a good job in leading the way and offering good support. In turn, Dr. Sandra Fisman, Chief of Psychiatry is pleased to have Haydn on the leadership team saying that, “he has demonstrated his capacity to play a positive and significant role in our evolving organization.”

Dr. Haydn Bush feels a sense of optimism for the future despite the fear and anxiety of change that some may be experiencing. “Real change,” he says, “is beginning to happen.”