July 17th, 2024

More questions, more frustrations for Piche family following fatality inquiry

By Peggy Revell on May 5, 2017.

Glenn Piche, 49, was found in June of 2013 hanging from a sheet in his hospital room, where he would later die as a result of his injuries. His family says they have learned things during this week's fatality inquiry but also have more questions and more frustrations. --Submitted Photo

prevell@medicinehatnews.com @MHNprevell

Three previous fatality inquiries in Alberta have called for video surveillance in all psychiatric ward rooms; the fatality inquiry for Glenn Piche will likely be the fourth.

“There’s no closure for me,” said Glenn’s brother, Marc Piche, as family gathered Friday outside the Medicine Hat courtroom with the completion of a three-day inquiry into Glenn’s 2013 suicide while in care at the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital.

The family has learned a lot from the inquiry, Marc said, but it has spurred new questions, and new frustrations.

One of those being that have been three previous fatality inquiries from 2011 to 2015 where judges recommended video cameras be installed in all psych ward rooms — yet this is still not standard practice in the province.

“If there would have been video cameras, my brother would have been here today,” said Marc. Glenn, who was 49 at the time of his death, was able to hang himself using a bed sheet on the bathroom door between the 30-minute intervals of being checked by staff. Only five rooms in “Five North” have cameras for observation, and Piche’s was not one of them.

The Piche family’s legal counsel noted during the inquiry that past judges even “scathingly” commented that cameras in all rooms were not implemented, despite previous recommendations.

“Now we’re at the fourth time, I would like heightened comments,” lawyer Samantha Labahn requested of Judge Fred Fisher.

Fisher stated that one of his recommendations will be for security cameras in all the rooms — adding that while there is a balance between privacy and risk to be considered, the privacy issue is less than the risk.

“I’m hopeful they’ll do what we ask them to do,” he said, adding it’s an unfortunate problem that there is no mechanism of forcing AHS to put the inquiry recommendations into place.

“It’s not law, it doesn’t have to be implemented. If it’s not implemented, then what’s the purpose of an inquiry?” Marc asked.

“What’s it going to take? How many deaths?,” added Marc’s wife, Julie.

The family is excited to learn of the new policies that have been put in place by AHS that will hopefully prevent future deaths, said Marc, but they feel that the full truth has not been revealed in part because the inquiry was extremely controlled, and not allowed to focus on issues like standard of care.

The inquiry’s mandate was to gather facts on the circumstances surrounding Piche’s death to prevent similar future deaths — but not look at legal responsibility or civil liabilities.

At the request of the family’s counsel, Judge Fisher said he would also be including in his report comment on how inquiries should take place within a timely fashion. It’s “totally inappropriate” that it has taken almost four years for the Piche inquiry to occur, he said.

Dozens of other recommendations were put forward by the family’s legal counsel for the judge to consider. This includes patient files and history for those in the psych ward being available electronically.

Inquiry testimony touched upon how these were not immediately available to the hospital psychiatrist who requested older charts on Piche to better evaluate him. While some digitized files are being used, the psych ward continues to use paper files for their patients.

Another request is that police officers share with hospitals details of past interactions for mental health calls with a person they’re bringing in on a mental health warrant, so hospital staff have more information.

Family also requested that bathroom door structures be looked at to ensure they can’t be used for a suicide attempt. Better monitoring of bed sheets, and phone calls a patient can receive were also requested.

A recommendation was also made for more specific time-stamping of notes being made by hospital staff — one suggestion included adopting a practice used at some seniors homes of scannable wristbands for patients.

Since Piche’s death, the family has felt “a complete lack of support” from AHS, said Labahn, requesting that there be policies and procedures in place that give direction to how to support families and provide information following a loved one’s passing.

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