News / Calgary

Inquiry into Calgary hospital suicide should bring change, but likely won’t: widow

The widow of a man who committed suicide at Calgary’s Rockyview Hospital with a belt staff left in his room despite her warnings says she hopes the inquiry into his death will result in significant changes, but doesn’t expect they will.

“In past inquiries in Alberta, similar recommendations have been made time and time again, and they’ve never been implemented,” Terri-Lee Anonson told Metro. “So what makes this any different?”

On Wednesday, the province released the final report of a judicial inquiry into the death of Shayne Anonson, who was found strangled in his hospital bathroom on Feb. 18, 2010, after being admitted a week earlier for “alcohol withdrawal and suicidal ideation.”

The report noted that hospital staff placed Shayne in a medical ward despite his own desire and that of his wife that he be admitted to a psychiatric unit.

At the very least, Terri-Lee said staff should have removed potentially dangerous items from Shayne’s room, including the transfer belt he ultimately used to kill himself.

“That, to me, is just common sense, if someone’s suicidal,” she said.

Alberta Health Services developed a new suicide-prevention policy in October 2011 but the report recommends more changes.

Those include creating a formal method of observing and communicating sudden changes in a patient’s risk of suicide, as well as correcting a “misapprehension” about patient confidentiality that prevented staff from talking with Shayne about family support systems.

AHS was “unable to accommodate an interview” Wednesday but, in an email, chief medical director for southern Alberta, Dr. Francois Belanger, said the recommendations are being reviewed.

Terri-Lee said, ideally, she would like to see far more beds in combined medical/mental health units, other than the six currently available at the Peter Lougheed Centre.

“Six beds, to me that’s pretty pathetic,” she said. “I would say a whole unit of at least 30 beds would be just the tip of the iceberg.”

Patient advocate Rick Lundy, who worked on Shayne Anonson’s case as part of the Open Arms Patient Advocacy Society, said his death speaks to a bigger issue.

“This is a larger problem than just the one, isolated incident," he said." This is something that AHS needs to look at very thoroughly, because I know of a dozen other cases where people have committed suicide while in the care of the hospital.”

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