Injured Ottawa military personnel to wait longer for help

Injured Ottawa military personnel to wait longer for help

David Pugliese More from David Pugliese
Published on: November 5, 2014Last Updated: November 6, 2014 5:47 PM EST

Injured soldiers in Ottawa will have to wait longer for help because the centre providing them assistance has lost a number of key members, according to a Canadian military document obtained by the Citizen.

Soldiers with more urgent cases, including those dealing with post-traumatic stress illnesses, are being told to call 9-1-1 or visit the Montfort Hospital.

The message was issued last week and sent to the Citizen by soldiers concerned that injured military personnel aren’t being provided with the proper treatment.

In his message, Navy Lt. Adam Winchester, platoon commander for Integrated Personnel Support Centre Ottawa, said that there would be changes because of the loss of two of the four section commanders who assist more than 225 injured military personnel.

“Two of our Section Commanders have recently left the IPSC to pursue other opportunities,” he wrote. “To that end, members assigned to these individuals will be re-assigned to our two remaining Section Commanders until we find suitable replacements.”

“As you can imagine, tempo at IPSC(O) has rapidly increased,” Winchester added.

He noted that IPSC Ottawa is one of the busiest such centres in Canada.

The military created the Integrated Personnel Support Centres across the country to offer programs to support and enable mentally and physically injured troops to resume their military careers or, more likely, to be “transitioned out” into the civilian world with sellable skills and jobs to go to.

Staff shortages at such centres have been an ongoing problem, despite the assurances from the military that the system is working fine.

Winchester outlined in his email how the Ottawa centre will operate. He stated that walk-in patients “will be seen eventually, but may not take priority. If you have an emergency or are in distress, please contact 9-1-1 or visit the Montfort Hospital.”

For non-urgent requests, injured military personnel can expect a three- to four-week wait.

“For urgent matters (which is ultimately determined at the Regional Level who handle over 500 members), your requests could take up to two weeks,” Winchester stated.

The Department of National Defence noted in an email to the Citizen that one of the two vacant positions is expected to be filled by a contract worker starting in early December.

The other vacancy will be staffed by a reservist, DND added. “There has been no impact on services to personnel,” according to the DND email.

Soldiers and former soldiers told the Citizen last year that too many IPSC staffers were overloaded, badly trained, ill-suited to the work and often unsympathetic toward the troops they are paid to help.

Injured soldiers posted into such centres complained of being left to their own devices and unsupervised for long periods.

In November 2013, then-Canadian Forces ombudsman Pierre Daigle warned in a report that there were problems at the military’s Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU), the umbrella group overseeing the centres. The ombudsman noted that there were “acute” staff shortages, leaving those tasked with helping the most damaged Afghan war veterans overworked, often inadequately trained, and in danger of burnout.

The ombudsman recommended increased staffing, better training for all staff, “resilience” training for staff and preparing for “emerging trends” – such as an expected increase in mentally injured soldiers needing help.

“It is essential to staff the JPSU with the appropriate number of personnel, to ensure that these personnel possess the necessary experience and competencies and to support them with suitable training,” Daigle said at the time.

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