The QEII’s new Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites unveiled, treats first patients

Collage of care providers standing in new suites; and an image showing a treatment room with bright colours and chairs

Pictured (left to right): Michelle Wilkinson, Sarah MacDonald and Chelsea Frenette within the newly-transformed Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

An important care area within the QEII’s Charles V. Keating Emergency and Trauma Centre just underwent a major transformation, all made possible by QEII Foundation donors.

In late 2023, the QEII’s newly renovated Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites at the Halifax Infirmary began seeing its first patients. These vital suites provide crisis intervention and psychiatric assessment to those facing a mental health crisis. Individuals in need of urgent mental health care are triaged directly from the QEII’s emergency department to the Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites, which offer a calming, safe and private environment for patients and their loved ones.

The original space had deteriorated after years of heavy use and was long overdue for an upgrade. 525 generous donors stepped up to transform the suites into a purpose-built environment that patients and healthcare teams need and deserve. Together, donors contributed $450,000 as part of the QEII Foundation’s We Are campaign — fully funding the redesign of the suites which includes three treatment rooms, an isolation area and nurses’ station.

Sarah MacDonald, health service manager of the QEII’s psychiatric emergency service, sees the impact of this transformation firsthand.

“These suites are specially designed to meet the unique needs of our patients and healthcare teams, which has a significant effect on care,” says Sarah. “Almost everything has been redesigned and improved.”

This includes new dimmable lighting, durable walls painted in calming colours, soundproofing, windows for more light, and much more.

“Patient comfort is behind every design feature in these suites — from the special flooring to weighted furniture that’s both safe and welcoming,” says Sarah. “It’s a grounding environment that we hope helps patients feel more comfortable, open and supported during their care experience.”

Although the suites are physically located within the QEII’s emergency department (ED), according to Matt White, it’s important that they don’t look and feel that way.

“The glaring lights, sounds and bustling atmosphere in the ED can be disruptive and even triggering for some patients during a mental health crisis,” says Matt White, director of mental health and addictions in Nova Scotia Health’s central zone. “The new Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites are quiet, private and calming which can help ease psychiatric symptoms.”

Furthermore, Matt adds that a treatment space that feels newly renovated and cared for goes a long way for those who may be hesitant or uncomfortable seeking care.

“When someone comes in for mental health treatment and sees things run-down and outdated, it can be very demoralizing, discouraging and stigmatizing,” says Matt. “There’s no question that these renovations help that.”

Every month, between 200 to 250 patients access the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites — receiving emergency care for everything from untreated anxiety and psychosis to suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Open 24/7, these specialized suites and the care providers behind them are always ready to support patients and families when they need it most.

“This project is another prime example of our We Are campaign at work and the transformational impact that our donors are having on mental health treatment and care,” says Susan Mullin, president and CEO of the QEII Foundation. “We’re incredibly grateful to every individual, family and organization who generously invested in the Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites.”

According to Susan, donor support “allowed our healthcare teams to dream bigger” as they planned this significant renovation and provided crucial funding that may have otherwise remained out of reach.

“When it comes to health care, design matters and our donors were committed to creating the best environment possible,” says Susan.

How a space looks, functions, and makes you feel plays an integral role in a patient’s experience and recovery, as well as helps healthcare teams deliver the most advanced and compassionate care.

“These suites are an essential part of Nova Scotia Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program,” says Sarah. “Thank you to the QEII Foundation and all the donors who’ve made these suites and their recent opening a reality – this is an exciting milestone for our teams.”


To view a virtual tour of the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites, visit QE2Foundation.ca/CareSuites. If you or a loved one needs help now, the Provincial Mental Health and Addictions crisis line is always available at 1 888 429 8167.

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