By Gillian Slade on January 2, 2018.
A formal response to recommendations following a fatality inquiry into the suicide death of Glenn Piche in the psychiatric ward has been submitted by Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Of the nine recommendations made public in August, 2017, video cameras in all rooms of that ward at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital, something three previous Alberta fatality inquiries called for, was what the Piche family felt would make the biggest difference.
AHS has proposed an alternative instead. It will develop a “governance document” to be completed by the end of October 2018. The document will guide clinical care when it comes to using video monitoring of psychiatric patients.
“This is one area that is being looked at provincially,” said Katherine Chubbs, chief zone officer AHS south zone.
AHS has concerns video monitoring could “stigmatize mental health clients,” place “undue reliance” on its use and there could be legal and privacy concerns.
“If video cameras were in all the rooms no one would feel stigmatized,” said Julie Piche, Glenn’s sister-in-law.
Video cameras as a preventative measure are not necessarily the answer, says AHS.
“It is only effective if someone is constantly looking at it,” said Chubbs.
Julie says there are all sorts of examples where video cameras are monitored by security people all the time and this could be done by AHS.
Piche was admitted to hospital in June 2013 after family members expressed concern about him considering suicide. The inquiry heard from medical staff who said he did not appear suicidal and was therefore not placed in one of the rooms with a video camera. On June 20, he was found in medical distress after attempting to take his own life. He was revived but died within days.
Glenn had struggled with mental health issues in the past. They tended to come in cycles about every five or six years. The family thought admitting him to hospital would ensure he received the care he needed. Glenn’s wife, Laurie Sherwood, was so distressed about what happened to Glenn she took her own life 18 months later.
The inquiry also brought to light the need for easy access to a patient’s records and the need to access those records within four hours.
Julie says the police had a record of Glenn having two previous episodes in hospital due to suicidal thoughts but those treating Glenn, and determining his level of risk for suicide, did not.
AHS has accepted this recommendation.
Glenn made use of a hook attached to the bathroom door in the ward to take his own life. The recommendation to remove those hooks was accepted by AHS and has been completed, said Chubbs.
AHS also accepted a recommendation to monitor patient’s phones. A protocol for this is already in place.
At the time of Glenn’s death security staff were responsible for some observation of patients when nurses were on their breaks. Their observations were not recorded in the patient’s records. Chubbs says observations of patients is now only done by nurses. Those nurses are also using staggered schedules for patient rounds so that there is no predictable time frame that patients can expect.
For Glenn’s family the response from AHS is bittersweet, said Julie. Not all the recommendations have been adopted but the inquiry has resulted in some practices changing within AHS. It also feels as though there is an admission by AHS that things could have been done differently.
Details of the public inquiry recommendations and the response by AHS is available online.
It has already cost Glenn’s family in excess of $50,000 in legal fees and they have set up a GoFundMe page to help.
“If people can help us it is greatly appreciated,” said Julie.
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