British Columbia

Mother blames Burnaby Hospital for son's suicide

A mother whose son took his life shortly after being discharged from Burnaby Hospital for mental health issues is blaming the nurses and doctors at the facility.

Fraser Health says its policy is to follow patients's wishes regarding notification of release

B.C. Schizophrenia Society spokesperson Ana Novakovic says a discharge checklist can prevent tragedies like Eddie Young's death. (CBC)

A mother in Burnaby, B.C., says she's in shock her son died less than one hour after being discharged from hospital this week, despite having warned health workers her son had suicidal tendencies. 

Kim Young says her 39-year-old son, Eddie Young, showed up at her home on Monday morning, disheveled and distraught. 

"He was clearly not with it, he wasn't speaking sentences," she said. "He wasn't making rational thoughts."

She says she eventually was able to piece together that he had been beaten, robbed and left on the side of the road. But her son wasn't able to communicate any details and didn't know what day or time it was. 

"Because I'm his mother, I took one look at him and knew that it wasn't my boy, there was something more going on," she said. 

2 days in hospital

Young took her son to Burnaby Hospital, where she says he remained for two full days. 

She says she repeatedly told staff her son had issues with anxiety and had threatened to kill himself less than two months ago.

"I said I'm afraid that he's going to try to kill himself," she said. 

Kim Young says she urged Burnaby Hospital staff to call her when her son was discharged. He took his life an hour after a psychiatrist cleared him to leave. (CBC)

Young says she visited and called the hospital several times over the course of the two days and repeatedly asked staff to phone her as soon as her son was discharged so she could pick him up. 

But Young says during the last phone call she made to the hospital, a nurse said her son had been cleared after being assessed by a psychiatrist and he was allowed to leave on his own.

"That was at one o'clock. Four o'clock, there's a knock at my door with three RCMPs telling me my son is dead," she said.

Hospital reviewing case

Fraser Health says its policy is to ask a patient being discharged if they would like medical staff to notify their loved ones. If the patient doesn't want it, staff won't do it.

"In this case we followed patient wishes," said chief medical officer Dr. Victoria Lee.

When it comes to determining whether a patient is fit to leave, Lee says a team makes that call.

"We have highly skilled experience care teams and professionals, including psychiatric nurses and social workers," she said.

The health authority says it's reviewing Eddie Young's case. 

'Far too common'

The B.C. Schizophrenia Society says cases like Eddie Young's are "becoming far too common." 

"It's definitely been our experience with the families we work with that most often discharge planning doesn't really take into account the full needs of the person being discharged," said the society spokesperson Ana Novakovic.

"We do understand how nurses, doctors and hospitals in general do want to follow the patient's wishes as much as possible. However we have found that to be very problematic."

Novakovic said patients who appear to be stable or claim they're OK are often discharged with very little family involvement or planning for what comes next. 

"Families play such an important role in ensuring that health care providers have the information they need to make a reliable judgement about the person's needs and follow-up care," she said.

To help prevent more deaths and a revolving door of hospital care and inadequate follow-up treatment, the B.C. Schizophrenia Society advocates hospitals adopt and implement a discharge checklist. 

This would include ensuring the patient has family or community support they can rely on, access to medication and housing, and follow-up mental health care. 

Novakovic said, to her knowledge, Vancouver Coastal Health is the only local health authority that has such a checklist in place. But even then, she says it's used inconsistently. 

With files from Megan Batchelor