What’s the count this morning?
The sense that deinstitutionalization was undertaken with scant regard for patient welfare was particularly acute among those who had worked in Saskatchewan, which had in the mid-1960s been the site of some of Canada’s earliest and most radical experiments in depopulating mental hospitals. This was especially true for practitioners who had worked at the Saskatchewan Hospital, Weyburn, and institution which, in the 1950s, had been an international beacon of progressive psychiatry. In the five years between 1963 and 1968, that institution’s in-patient population (which had peaked at over 2,500 in 1946) was reduced by more than two thirds from over 1,200 to under 400. More than four decades later, some practitioners remained palpably angry at what they remembered as program driven by bureaucratic imperatives, not human needs.
When the superintendent used to come ‘round in the morning, he wouldn’t even say good morning to the patients. He would go straight to the nurse and say, “what’s the count this morning?” What’s the count; the count was what mattered, not the patients!
So one day the social workers would pack them up with their little bag of worldly possessions – which was nothing – and drive them and put them in a home and introduce them to the landlady and just leave them there…. This was just cruel, really.