Death From Neglect In A Canadian Hospital Emergency Room

A Canadian reporter, on an emergency room suicide, seems to be blaming a broken mental health system on that death. I, on the other hand, see that as a matter of avoiding the specifics of this case, and I am amazed at how hospital bureaucracy commands the emergency room to such an extent that a completely avoidable tragedy of this sort was allowed to occur.

The story I am referring to, Recent suicide should spark overhaul of a crumbling system, appeared in a recent edition of the Edmonton Journal.

As my colleague Jodie Sinnema first reported on Saturday, the 34-year-old man, who was bipolar and suicidal, arrived at the Royal Alexandra Hospital on Sept. 18. He was lucid and self-aware enough to know he was in trouble. He was placed in an examination room, where he waited for 12 hours for someone to offer him medical treatment. His family’s contact phone number was, it seems, in the hospital file. But no one from the hospital called to notify a family member — presumably because [Shayne] Hay was an independent adult and his legal right to privacy trumped his family’s right to know their son and brother was in crisis.

Not notifying his family is not what concerns me. If Shayne Hay didn’t want his family notified, at least, the hospital staff respected his wishes.

Eventually, he asked staff for a pen and paper, wrote a suicide note and hung himself, right in the emergency ward, using the strap of his own knapsack.

No person in a hospital emergency room with a gaping wound, or who was bleeding profusely, would be forced to wait 12 frigging hours in an examination room without being seen by a physician. This case represents a concrete example of the prejudice and discrimination directed against people experiencing emotional difficulties.

I think an apt parallel can be drawn between this case and its handling in the press and the case of Mrs. Esmin Greene who died a few years ago on the floor of King’s County Hospital Emergency Room in New York City. In the case of Mrs. Greene, hospital staff went so far as attempting to cover up the facts surrounding her death.

Why would he have gone to the emergency room if he didn’t think he was in an emergency situation? Emergencies call for immediate attention, and not attention after the lapse of what amounts to an entire day, if not longer.

Rather than using this suicide to make a pitch for more mental health funding in general, as the reporter of the above article seems to be doing, we should be looking at ways for remedying the neglect that people undergoing emotional crises receive in hospital emergency rooms. It is this negligence, and the prejudice behind it, that needs to be addressed, investigated, and corrected. In the absence of corrective measures, you can be certain that this won’t be the last death of this sort occurring in a hospital emergency room.

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