By Tom Careen
John Careen was killed at St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital on July 28, 1998. While he was suicidal in the hours leading to his death, he did not commit suicide.
He is dead because the window of his seventh floor hospital room was opened with no regard for his safety, and left open by staff on a subsequent shift.
Staff ought to have known John Careen was an involuntary patient held under this province’s Mental Health Act. How was an open seventh floor window compatible with the intent of that Act?
If you may recall, the administrators of the then Health Care Corporation of St. John’s had a haughty and laissez-faire attitude toward suicidal patients and suicide, and only reacted when the news media noticed disturbing goings-on and began asking questions.
In recent months, a couple of incidents involving our province’s treatment of mentally ill citizens have been carried in the news.
A young man from Port Rexton died violently on the Trans-Canada Highway when he got out of the ambulance transporting him to hospital in St. John’s.
Eastern Health president and CEO Vicki Kaminski assured the public all policies and procedures for ambulance transport were followed by the staff.
I have two simple questions about this senseless and avoidable death.
One, why was there not a psychiatric nurse assigned to that ambulance from Clarenville that night?
Two, if a patient were very pregnant and presenting complications or another patient was experiencing a stroke or a heart attack and had to be rushed to St. John’s that night, would a nurse have gone along on the trip?
Fox and henhouse
In another public matter, some inmates of our Dickensian prison have complained and still complain the prison psychiatrist pulls them off medications that have been prescribed by other doctors.
The Department of Justice ordered a peer review of their eminent employee to be done by a forensic psychiatrist from Ontario.
You have to hand it to our tough boys and girls in Justice.
They are the only gang outside of fascist or communist dictatorships who would hire a fox to inquire into the working conditions and circumstances of another fox in their very own henhouse.
Apparently, there is a standard of care for psychiatrists working in Canada’s prisons.
A local defence lawyer, Mark Gruchy, says the standard of care is not good enough and must be raised.
Mr. Gruchy, also president of the provincial division of the Canadian Mental Health Association, is quoted in The Telegram of Nov. 7 speaking about the implementation of the recovery model (of treatment) and the proper and thorough implementation of mental health services in our prison.
I will close with a bit of advice for former, current and future convicts at HMP. If the prison psychiatrist pulls you off medications prescribed by another psychiatrist, file a complaint with the police and request charges be laid under Section 215 of the Criminal Code of Canada — Duty of Persons to Provide Necessaries.
Medical treatment tending to preserve life is a necessary of life.
Cumulative complaints might encourage someone to find the guts and common decency to act.
Tom Careen writes from Placentia.