Delivering on a duty to provide care

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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.

Other incidents

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.

Taking care

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.

Organizations: Mercy Hospital, Health Care, Trans-Canada Highway Department of Justice Canadian Mental Health Association

Geographic location: Port Rexton, Eastern Health, Canada Clarenville Ontario Placentia

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Recent comments

  • Ron Tizzard
    November 29, 2012 - 10:10

    Tom, the death of your brother at St. Clare's was most unfortunate, and the people of the Province are still moved upon recall of that most unfortunate event. That said, your continued rage is serving no substantive purpose at this point in time other than move people to hastly skip through your remarks to read the next, somebody else's rant for the day (I say that with greatest respect). Your, self-inflicted pain at this point, is and has continued to move people to turn to the next page which is most unfortunate...which I did, but felt | had to come back and make these couple of remarks. May I suggest that, instead of ranting about the event your brother's death, why not 'positively' seek a way to 'positively' contribute to change within a part of the movement towards change. Ranting repeatedly only promotes page-turning. Seek out a group, process, a Board that you may possibly be able to sit-on where you'll be able to be heard and respected in a positive way. And, you will perhaps be able to begin to heal... yourself. Personally, I saw your name, read the first line or two and turned the page...'it's Tom again', I thought. I think I am not alone in this opinion. You have a passion, a way with words which may attract positive attention to yourself...right now, it is my sense that people just don't listen any longer...and, that is sad. Your passion, positively channeled could accomplish a lot. You decried the review at HMP, without a second thought, anger again, took you away from the 'broader picture' of what was happening down there. You without a second thought just swept aside the review outcome...and stuck with your own totally short-minded take on what was happening there to appreciate what will soon take place to more positively enhance the care and protection of inmates there...not to mention, is my prayer, that prisoners at HMp will not just 'serve time', but actually be able to obtain some actual insight as to how they can 'CHANGE', and reduce the terrible recidivist rate. Very soon, the HMP will move on changing some of its routines, and become a real 'CORREWCTIONAL-CENTRE' and not simply a 'day-care' centre, treating adults like mindless youngsters. Following, Dr. Klassen's review, and all parties seemingly on side with most of his recommendations, positve change will take place for all concerned which might , just might , provide more positive programing leading to changes in some people's lives. Hope this clarification, from my perspective, helps.