HOSPI­TAL FALL DEATH IN­QUEST CORO­NER SAYS VIC­TIM’S MEN­TAL HEALTH CARE LACK­ING

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY GIL­LIAN HAL­L­I­DAY

A SIS­TER of a woman who died af­ter fall­ing from a fourth-floor hospi­tal land­ing has called for “sys­tem­atic changes” af­ter an in­quest found a “sig­nif­i­cant gap” in her men­tal health care.

Anita Rooney (50), a moth­erof-three from Dun­gan­non, sus­tained fa­tal in­juries in the in­ci­dent at Craigavon Area Hospi­tal on May 18, 2016.

The pre­vi­ous day she was ad­mit­ted to the hospi­tal as an in-pa­tient af­ter she was spot­ted at a bridge over the River Black­wa­ter.

At the fin­ish of a three-day in­quest at Ar­magh court­house, Coro­ner Joe McCrisken said that while Mrs Rooney’s med­i­cal needs were “ap­pro­pri­ately” treated on ad­mis­sion to the hospi­tal’s emer­gency de­part­ment (ED) the day be­fore her death, her men­tal health needs were not.

Af­ter­wards Mrs Rooney’s fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing her hus­band Michael and grown-up chil­dren Thomas, Chloe and Natalie, ur­gently called for bet­ter ser­vices for vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients.

Her sis­ter Noelle re­mem­bered Mrs Rooney as “warm, com­pas­sion­ate, hu­mor­ous and kind”, and stressed there is an “ur­gent need for sys­tem­atic changes” in how vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients are treated.

The in­quest heard how on the day of her death, Mrs Rooney fell to the bot­tom of a stair­well on the hospi­tal’s sec­ond floor, where medics — who were praised for their “ex­cep­tional” re­sponse by the coro­ner — rushed to help.

At the time the highly re­spected busi­ness­woman, who had a his­tory of men­tal health prob­lems, had been re­ported miss­ing from the acute med­i­cal unit (AMU), where she had been ad­mit­ted as an in-pa­tient from the emer­gency de­part­ment.

The pre­vi­ous day at the ED she had been as­sessed as a “high risk of fur­ther self-harm” for de­lib­er­ately mis­us­ing al­co­hol, a pre­scrip­tion drug and non-pre­scrip­tion drugs — items she had taken at a bridge over the River Black­wa­ter.

She was spot­ted by some­one who alerted the emer­gency ser­vices, who took her to Craigavon.

The in­quest pre­vi­ously heard that no for­mal hospi­tal risk as­sess­ment had been car­ried out on Mrs Rooney, although it had been ar­ranged for her to see a con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist the day she died.

And in keep­ing with UK pol­icy her phys­i­cal med­i­cal needs were ad­dressed first, which Mr McCrisken said meant that there was “pe­riod of 12 hours” when her men­tal state was “not ad­dressed” from her ini­tial ar­rival to Craigavon.

“She had been ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal in the first place as a re­sult of men­tal ill health. This was not at­tended to, or treated within the ED,” he said.

“This rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant gap in pa­tient care which re­ally must be ad­dressed as a pri­or­ity. On this oc­ca­sion Mrs Rooney fell through a gap in ser­vices.”

He did, how­ever, find that staff at the AMU had ap­pro­pri­ately treated Mrs Rooney, in­clud­ing fol­low­ing pol­icy in alert­ing that she had gone miss­ing.

A new risk as­sess­ment tool in the process of be­ing rolled out at Craigavon was also wel­comed by Mr McCrisken, who said on the “bal­ance of prob­a­bil­i­ties Mrs Rooney had taken her own life”.

He added that the changes im­ple­mented at Craigavon since the in­ci­dent could be a “suit­able legacy” for Mrs Rooney.

Af­ter­wards Mrs Rooney’s son Thomas called for more men­tal health care poli­cies to help in­di­vid­u­als like his late mother.

“Through our mother’s death, we hope that changes can be made in re­gards to the way men- tal health is ad­dressed and treated,” he said.

“We be­lieve that a break­down in com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the med­i­cal and psy­chi­atric treat­ment which our mother re­ceived was a large fac­tor in her death.” Pay­ing trib­ute to Mrs Rooney as the “most gen­er­ous and lov­ing mother imag­in­able”, he added that the fam­ily had en­dured a “strug­gle through the deep­est tragedy pos­si­ble”.

“Our mother loved of all us dearly. We hope that we can move for­ward and look back fondly on the many won­der­ful and cher­ished mem­o­ries that will al­ways be with us.”

The fam­ily thanked Packie O’Neill, who helped Mrs Rooney at the bridge.

❝ Through our mother’s death, we hope that changes can be made for treat­ment

FRED­DIE PARKIN­SON

Anita Rooney with hus­band Michael. Right, daugh­ters Natalie and Chloe leave court yes­ter­day and (be­low) Michael and son Thomas

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