Calgary

AHS reviewing what led to suicide at Peter Lougheed Centre

Two weeks after a psychiatric patient died by suicide at the Peter Lougheed Centre, Alberta Health Services said there is a delicate balancing act between freedom and treatment when it comes to mental illness.

Advocate says the agency should not be the scapegoat for failings in Alberta's mental health care

Julie Kerr with Alberta Health Services said treating psychiatric patients involves balancing treatment and freedom. (Kate Adach/CBC)

Two weeks after a psychiatric patient died by suicide at the Peter Lougheed Centre, Alberta Health Services said it's looking at the balancing act between freedom and treatment when it comes to mental illness.

"We have to remember that these folks are patients, right? They're not prisoners and the goal is always to have people living as freely as possible with the least amount of restriction in the community as is safe," said Julie Kerr, senior operating officer for community, rural and mental health services in the Calgary Zone.   

"And so sometimes part of the treatment is that you're testing people's ability to manage time off unit."

Review underway 

The inpatient at the Peter Lougheed hospital jumped from an upper level of a parking garage at the facility on July 25. Another inpatient died in a similar manner in 2006, which led to an inquiry.

One of the recommendations to come from that inquiry was to look at renovating the parkade, but that never happened. 

"It's that tradeoff of, do you put a lot of money into infrastructure to prevent a few incidents, or do you try to put money into services and programs?" said Kerr. 

She said the hospital has taken steps to standardize how doctors assess patient risk and that AHS will review all events leading up to the recent suicide. 

'Get together'

Mara Gruneau, with the Centre for Suicide Prevention, said AHS shouldn't be held solely responsible.

Mara Gruneau, with the Centre for Suicide Prevention, says that Alberta Health Services shouldn't take all the blame. (CBC)

"Enough of this passing the buck between justice and health and Alberta Health Services and the court system and the police and everything else. Get together," she said. 

"We can't just push all of the issues onto one agency and expect them to solve it for everyone."