Waypoint expands access to ECT to help more people with severe mental illnesses

By Kristi Lalonde, Communications Officer

More patients now have access to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) as Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care expands the availability of this highly effective therapy from three days to five.

“ECT is part of Waypoint’s role as the specialty mental health hospital for our region and is central to our providing both acute inpatient mental health services and outpatient services with a goal to keeping people well in our community. We are committed to improving access to high quality care and this ECT expansion as well as the additional 14 acute mental health beds we are operating are priorities in these challenging times, with emergency departments overburdened from the pandemic impacts and staffing pressures,” notes Dr. Nadiya Sunderji, Waypoint’s CEO. “I want to share my appreciation to our staff for making this happen for our patients and clients.”

Performed for over 80 years, the effectiveness of ECT is well documented in the medical literature but its uptake has been limited by stigma and fear. While this stigma persists, there have been many advances in the practice evolving it to a modern, safe and well-established medical procedure that can be live-saving and transforming for those who need it.

Recent research suggests that ECT works by stimulating brain cells (neurons) to grow and develop healthy connections to each other. It works similar to how a defibrillator or pacemaker helps restore a normal rhythm to a person’s heart, the electrical stimulation can help restore proper function to the brain.

“ECT has long been used for treating severe and treatment-resistant cases of mood and psychotic illnesses,” says Dr. Plabon Ismail, Waypoint Medical Director of Regional Programs and ECT Lead Psychiatrist. “Because of its effectiveness and improved side effect profile, we are seeing an overall trend where patients and physicians are opting for ECT early in the treatment course, especially in outpatient settings. Increasing our service from three to five days per week will allow us to meet these increasing demands while providing appropriate follow-up treatment promptly.”

Despite widespread staffing challenges throughout the pandemic, Waypoint was able to maintain ECT services during these times of critical need. The hospital has also been collaborating with the Ontario Health Mental Health and Addictions Centre of Excellence and other experts across the province to identify the need and are now at the forefront of developing standards for high quality delivery of ECT. Expanding access at Waypoint takes the pressure off acute care partners and allows them to focus on restoring surgical volumes and reducing wait times.

Waypoint’s ECT clinic is located at the hospital’s Penetanguishene campus and is available for both inpatients and outpatients. A team of trained medical professionals that includes psychiatrists, anesthesiologists, and nurses assess patients, educate patients and families, and administer the treatment.

Not sure if ECT is the right treatment for you or your loved one? “Our team is happy to speak with anyone, patients, families, healthcare providers and students who are looking for more information on ECT and the services we provide,” says Jackie Watt, Program Director. “Our Central Intake Office staff manage referrals and can assist in identifying the right supports.”

For more information, please visit our website at www.waypointcentre.ca/patients___families/electroconvulsive_therapy.



About Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care

Waypoint is a recognized academic and teaching hospital providing specialty mental health and addiction services for Simcoe County, Muskoka and central Ontario, as well as provincially as the province’s only high secure forensic mental health program. The hospital, which includes the Waypoint Research Institute, is located on the beautiful shores of Georgian Bay in the Town of Penetanguishene. Waypoint provides an extensive range of acute and longer-term psychiatric inpatient and outpatient services as well as the North Simcoe/Muskoka Specialized Geriatrics Services program.

As part of our commitment to support the Ontario healthcare system, Waypoint is currently operating an additional 14 acute care mental health beds (for a total of 34 acute mental health beds); is a network lead organization for the Ontario Structured Psychotherapy Program; offers free, confidential and low barrier access to individual counselling for healthcare workers, frontline workers and first responders through Frontline Wellness; and is a partner in the Ontario Health Team for Specialized Populations with a goal to bring expertise in specialized services through an individual’s lifespan with a focus on mental health and addictions, seniors and Indigenous populations.