Fatality report into senior's suicide raises questions for some

Alberta Justice has released the fatality report of an elderly patient who hanged himself at a facility run by Covenant Health.
Alberta Justice released its findings into the death of an elderly patient at a facility run by Covenant Health. 2:05

Alberta Justice has released the fatality report of an elderly patient who hanged himself at a facility run by Covenant Health.

Arnold Barstad, 90, was one of the first patients admitted to Villa Caritas when it opened in 2011 as a care facility for geriatric patients with mental illness.

He had a history of depression and had attempted suicide in the past.

The inquiry into Barstad’s death found that he had hanged himself using the belt of his robe, which he tied to a towel rack.

Scott Baerg, the vice president of mental health for Covenant Health, said Barstad’s death prompted changes intended to make the facility safer for all of its patients.

"[We ensured] that closet doors were breakaway, and that we could lock closet doors, lock bathrooms. We also concealed any items that could be a ligature point as well."

But some elder advocates say Barstad’s death still raises questions.

"If he was suicidal why didn't they take his belt? Why didn't they take his shaving equipment?” asked Ruth Adria, who is with the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society.

Adria questioned why a suicidal patient wasn’t watched more closely, given Barstad’s known suicidal tendencies.

Adria also said the fatality inquiry raised many questions, and should have included more testimony.

"There were no paramedics, there was no medical examiner, and usually the paramedics give a very articulate report," she said.

Following the suicide, the Alberta’s NDP party spoke out saying Villa Caritas wasn't equipped to accept mental health patients from Alberta hospital.

However, Covenant Health denied those claims.

"We provided the best care that we could, and obviously there was a tragic event. And I'm confident  in the staff and treatment teams that we have at Villa Caritas," said Baerg.

Covenant Health says there has not been another suicide at Villa Caritas since structural improvements were made.

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