The Lethbridge Herald
Thursday A, Thursday, November 30, 2006, p. a5

Medication key to keeping mentally ill out of hospital


More than one-third of patients discharged from hospital re-admitted within
a year: report


Lethbridge Herald with CP files

A former Lethbridge man who's lived with schizophrenia all his adult life
said a report released Wednesday underscores the importance of finding ways
to get schizophrenics to take their medication.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information report says more than a third
of patients discharged from hospital with a diagnosis of mental illness wind
up returning to hospital within a year.

Nawaf Madi, the CIHI's mental health program leader, says re-admission is
often linked to a disruption in outpatient treatment and may signal
instability or a recurrence of severe symptoms.

"Disruption just means non-compliance with medication," said Austin Mardon,
noted Antarctic explorer and longtime volunteer with the Schizophrenia
Society of Alberta.

Mardon, who has published numerous scholarly works, was awarded the Alberta
Centennial Award last year for his substantial scientific contributions to
the province. Formerly of Lethbridge, he now lives in Edmonton.

He said people stop taking their drugs for many reasons, including cost,
unpleasant side-effects and the belief they are well and don't need their
meds any more.

"If there could be a successful campaign to get people on medication they
can afford, we could see a drastic reduction in hospitalizations," Mardon
said. "But 40 per cent of people who take medications don't take them

The report, Hospital Mental Health Services in Canada 2003-2004, found 30
per cent of all general hospital stays during that time involved a patient
with mental illness. The average length of stay was just over 16 days for a
patient with a primary diagnosis of mental illness, more than double that
for patients with a non-psychiatric diagnosis.

This finding is a concern for health planners, Madi says, partly because
in-patient hospital care is so expensive.

In the past 10 years, there's been a decline in the number of patients using
hospital mental health services as well as their average length of stay.
That's likely because patients who are drug compliant are benefiting from
new generations of medication, especially injectables, that offer fewer side
effects and more even control of symptoms.

Mardon pointed to a successful New York program for homeless schizophrenic

"They can't get their cheques until they have their injections and that's
working very well there," he said.

There, the state pays for the medication, which costs C$795 for two
injections, or a month's worth. In Alberta, some medications are covered but
the new form of Risperdal is not. Mardon, who took part in a trial, has been
granted compassionate coverage so he can continue to use it.

"Otherwise, that's as much as I live on in a month," he said. "The
medication is very toxic, there's no doubt about that. It can cause sexual
side effects, impotence, massive weight gain, drooling even. But what choice
do you have? The first contact a schizophrenic has with the system is
usually not with health care, it's with the police."

To read the entire report, visit

Category: News
Uniform subject(s): Diseases, therapy and prevention
Length: Medium, 422 words

Doc. : news·20061130·LH·029112006¥1Mental¥1health¥1ho

Austin Mardon, CM
Telephone: 1-780-378-0063
Post Office Box 1223, Main Post Office,
Edmonton, Alberta, CANADA,
T5J 2M4
Web site: