Hospital defends police notification over suspicious death

A senior official at the Saint John Regional Hospital is defending how the hospital notified the police about the suspicious death of Serena Perry last February following comments made to CBC News from Bill Reid, the city's police chief.

Saint John Police say they weren't notified immediately of Serena Perry's death

Officials at the Saint John Regional are defending the hospital's handling of the suspicious death of patient Serena Perry early last year following comments by the city’s police chief 2:13

Officials at the Saint John Regional Hospital are defending how it notified the Saint John Police about the suspicious death of Serena Perry early last February.

Serena Perry, who was a psychiatric patient at the Saint John Regional Hospital, was found dead in February 2012.

When asked why no charges have been laid after 11 months, Saint John Police Chief Bill Reid said in an interview the Perry investigation has not been straightforward.

Bill Reid, the chief of the Saint John police, said officers were not notified immediately of Serena Perry's death. (CBC)

For instance, he said the hospital's staff didn't notify the police until up to an hour after her death.

A senior official at the hospital, however, did not apologize for its handling of the Perry on Tuesday.

Dr. John Dornan, the chief of staff at the Saint John Regional Hospital, said it’s not unusual for hospital staff to put off calling police even in cases of what might be a suspicious death.

"Our primary concern is with the patient," he said.

"Resuscitative measures occur and we often transfer people to emergency departments or [intensive care units] where that's our primary concern; the well-being of the patient and less so the circumstances in which they have been found to be unconscious."

Dornan said hospital staff do not have time to concern themselves with a potential criminal investigation.

Reid said in an interview with CBC News last week the police weren't notified there was an issue at the hospital for up to an hour after she was found and even then the details provided to police were sparse.

Initially, Reid said the police were called to inform the family of a death. But the police chief said his staff said, "this didn’t sound quite right" and they notified officers who started asking questions.

"So, from the very beginning, this wasn't a normal situation for us," Reid said.

The hospital is conducting a critical incident review of the events surrounding Perry's death.

Dornan said the report may lead to changes in procedures at the hospital.

The Saint John Police have completed their investigation and have sent a report to the Crown prosecutor.

The police said they had a suspect in Perry’s death last March, but no charges have been laid.

The Crown's office has some questions about the forensic pathology and they have asked for further analysis, according to the police chief.

A report with that information is expected to be completed in February, Reid said.