Nova Scotia's Health Minister says his department is looking into implementing personal tracking devices equipped with global positioning systems to monitor psychiatric patients on leave from the East Coast Forensic Hospital.
"I would not shy away from being the first province to do so if it is the right thing to do," Leo Glavine told CBC's Information Morning.
"It is one that is presently receiving the review in the Department of Health."
There are renewed calls for enhanced surveillance for patients who may pose a danger to themselves and others, following the news that another psychiatric patient, Vladimir Trubman, disappeared from the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth last week.
Trubman, 50, was on an unescorted pass from the hospital when he did not return last Thursday.
It was troubling news for the family of Raymond Taavel, who was killed in Halifax more than a year ago. Andre Noel Denny, another psychiatric patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, faces second-degree murder charges in Taavel's death.
At the time of the gay activists' death in April 2012, Denny had failed to return to the hospital after being granted a one-hour leave — an incident that led government officials to review release protocols for psychiatric patients.
Denny's trial is set to begin in September 2014.
Taavel's family points to Buddi tracker
The lawyer for Taavel's family said they've sent a letter to the Nova Scotia Ministers of Justice and Health, saying studies in Britain show patients wearing tracking devices with a global positioning system were found and treated more quickly.
Glavine said his department is trying to balance patients' rights with public safety while juggling both ethical and legal considerations.
"When the final review comes across my desk it's one that I will give every consideration to implementing if that's the direction we need to go," he said.
"I believe we have to do what is absolutely right."
In the United Kingdom, the ministry of justice adopted a system called the Buddi tracker after a successful trial at the South London and Maudsley National Health Service Foundation.
David Hearn, security team leader at the London forensic hospital, told CBC's Information Morning last year that the tracker had drastically reduced the number of psychiatric patients from wandering off.
He said it's also helped patients reintegrate into the community.
"We are giving more patients more leave now. Previously we had a quite structured process that patients would go through 15 minutes leave with staff working their way through as they earned more trust and progressed more. Now we're able to provide that assurance with the Buddi tracker," Hearn said at the time.
"Patients are able to access more leave more quickly to a wider geographical area, have more time and get back into the community a lot quicker but more safely."
Glavine said 18 recommendations to track patients have already been implemented. They include a more rigorous risk assessment process and a designated smoking area on the hospital site.