A 34-year-old patient has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of his roommate on the psychiatric ward at Edmonton's Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Jean Francois Sheehy was also charged Tuesday with possession of a weapon for the purpose of committing an offence.

Police took Sheehy into custody early Monday morning after being called to the hospital by staff who broke up an altercation. Sheehy's roommate, 57-year-old Dwayne Roger Roy, was pronounced dead shortly after police arrived at 3:50 a.m.

Police said Tuesday that theyfound a knife at the scene, and an autopsy determined the cause of death to be "blunt and sharp force trauma to the head and neck."

Meanwhile, the vice-president of the Alberta nurses' union said more could have been done to prevent Roy's death.

Nurses in the ward have reported an increase in violent incidents and have asked the health authority for special constables in the ward, better screening of patients, and proper placement of high-risk patients, said Bev Dick.

"Sadly, over the years, mental health has kind of fallen through the cracks. It's not as sexy as a heart institute," she said.

Capital Health investigating

Capital Health, the organization that runs Edmonton-area hospitals, is investigating the incident.

Nancy Fraser, senior operating officer for mental health programs at Capital Health, said the altercation brought staff and security officers running.

"We had eight security on site. Six of them responded immediately," she said. "The staff were diligent and tried to break up the altercation and then took both people to emergency where, unfortunately, one fellow passed away."

Security on the ward hasn't been beefed up in the wake of the incident, Fraser said, though health officials have been reassuring families their loved ones are safe, and are providing support to patients, family members and staff members.

Dr. P.J. White, head of psychiatric care for Capital Health, said the two patients didn't have a history of conflict. The man taken into custody was deemed "relatively stable" and was about to be discharged, he said.

"It is a tough situation and we clearly have had a tragedy in one of our units this morning, and one of our patients obviously was killed and this to us is very serious," he said. "It's a tragedy, not just for the patient, but also for the patient's family."

The last homicide in a Capital Health-run facility was at Alberta Hospital in 1994.

With files from the Canadian Press