Inquests opened after four patients suicide at Canberra Hospital in two years | ACT | Office Space Canberra \
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October 13, 2017

Inquests opened after four patients suicide at Canberra Hospital in two years

Coronial inquests will scrutinise practices at the Canberra Hospital after four patients died by suicide on its campus in less than two years.

Three of those people were patients in the hospital’s mental health wards and one was a patient in a medical assessment ward.

The inquests, which are travelling together towards a joint hearing, would likely look at staffing levels, suicide assessments, as well as the physical spaces and their suitability for mental health patients, the ACT Coroner’s Court heard when the inquiries opened in June.

At a directions hearing on Friday, the court heard the four matters could require up to a month of court days – five days each – to hear all the evidence.

Chief Coroner Lorraine Walker voiced some concern that the ACT Coroner’s Court was not well-resourced for these matters but said “they require the attention they require”.

The four matters were on Friday set down to hear evidence over 12 days in April and May next year.

The court has previously heard the circumstances behind each person’s death.

A Lyons man was admitted to the adult mental health unit on Christmas Day 2014 in the context of psychosis.

One night he appeared anxious, and told to go to bed, but the 25-year-old was discovered by staff later that night. He died two days later, on January 6, 2015.

A 48-year-old Canberra woman died on March 20, 2015. She was a voluntary patient of the mental health assessment unit in the context of suicide ideation.

A family member found a 59-year-old Bombala woman unconscious at home, and she was taken first to Bombala Hospital and then the Canberra Hospital on June 28, 2016.

She was admitted to a medical assessment unit. She underwent a psychiatric assessment, and was receiving treatment for pain when she died.

Another man died on November 17, 2016. He was admitted on November 5 as a voluntary mental health patient after his family expressed concerns about a possible suicide risk. He died five days after he was discovered by staff.

The court has heard the four deaths shared common features and common issues, and for this reason were travelling together towards a joint hearing.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Sarah Baker-Goldsmith, said at the opening of the inquests that hearing the matters together would allow the coroner to take an view of the entire system and make “recommendations for change in a way that is not always possible when inquests examine the facts of individual deaths.”

Ms Baker-Goldsmith said there would be efficiency in the combined hearing and that “the public interest in a joint inquest is quite manifest.”

The deaths involved two mental health units at the hospital and a separate medical assessment unit.

The adult mental health unit, which opened in March 2012, provides care and treatment for people who need short-term intensive therapy.

The mental health assessment unit opened in April 2010 in the emergency department, and provides assessment and treatment.

The dates of April 10 to 13, 17 to 20, and May 1 to 4 have been set down to hear evidence.

Lifeline 13 11 14

MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78

Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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