Suicidal man stepped on QEII roof after long wait for emergency care, says mother

Rachel Jones wonders how long she and her son would have waited for Halifax’s emergency room if he hadn’t escaped and killed himself.

Jones took her 24-year-old son to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Center last month because he was depressed, manic and suicidal.

CBC News does not name Jones’ son, but his mother speaks on his behalf as he recovers.

When they arrived at the hospital, Jones said she told the triage nurses that her son was talking about suicide by jumping off a building.

“I assumed that would be right [forward]Jones said in an interview. “Show it to the doctor and then send it to the mental health team so he doesn’t sit in the waiting room with people.”

That was not the case. They sat in the waiting room for more than seven hours, Jones said, before her son asked to go to the bathroom.

Nova Scotia Health did not respond to questions about protocols surrounding unlocked doors at the hospital. (Robert Short/CBC)

Out of sight of his mother, he found an unlocked door and eventually went to the roof.

Security found Jones’ son, handcuffed him and placed him in an interrogation room where he was held for several hours.

He didn’t see a psychiatrist until about 18 hours after they first arrived at the hospital, Jones said.

“I’m not sure why we had to wait so long… I could have lost my son and… [so would have] his siblings and his father,” she said. “I don’t know how we would have recovered.”

Problem with the process

Jones, who has worked as a licensed nurse since 1994, said she doesn’t blame the staff.

Her problem, she said, is with the process.

An emergency department physician assesses a patient who is experiencing a mental health crisis and then decides whether they should see a crisis counselor or a member of the psychiatry team, according to Nova Scotia Health.

Jones said doctors are so busy that a nurse or other medical health professional should be able to refer to the psychiatric team to help people access care more quickly.

“It’s bureaucratic and it’s harmful to the young people, old people, whoever, who have serious mental health problems and they are revolting to wait all this time.”

Shorten waiting times

An advocate for the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers agrees that doctors should not be the only ones able to assess people who come to the hospital with mental health problems.

“They don’t have to control everything,” N Siritsky said. “This model of mental health is based on this outdated, physician-driven pharmaceutical concept.”

Siritsky said allowing social workers, who are already in hospitals, to intervene as soon as a patient enters the hospital would ease the pressure on doctors and cut waiting times.

“Having a social worker come in who can do an initial assessment can contribute to some of the treatment plans in a way that can help the health care provider when the health care provider finally arrives and reduce the amount of time the doctor actually has to spend with the patient.” , ” they said.

N Siritsky of the Nova Scotia College of Social Workers says there are too many barriers to accessing mental health services in this province. (CBC)

“The social worker can provide some of the guidance and support and resources not only to the individual, but possibly to the relatives or friends who have come along with that individual.”

Siritsky said such changes should be part of a larger shift in Nova Scotia’s mental health delivery towards a collaborative and proactive approach to patient care.

The goal, Siritsky said, would be to prevent people struggling with mental health from ever having to go to hospital.

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia Health said in an email Mental Health and Addictions Urgent Care Services saw a 30 percent increase in demand for services in 2020 and a 10 percent increase in demand for non-emergency services.

Questions remain

Rachel Jones said she still doesn’t understand why there was an unlocked door in QEII’s emergency room.

“This was a major near miss and I wonder if it was even talked about,” she said. ‘Are they looking at it? Are they assessing it?’

Nova Scotia Health did not respond to questions about protocols around unlocked doors at the hospital and whether they have made any changes since this incident.

Jones said she’s not sure what she’ll do if her son goes through another mental health crisis. She said the experience traumatized her son and made her worried and angry.

“I will always be afraid that he will feel that he is a problem in society because of the way it has been handled.”

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