Manitoba

Reid Bricker case prompts calls for changes to health privacy act

The friend of a Winnipeg woman who killed herself after being released from hospital is stunned to learn a man with mental illness is missing following his release from hospital.

'I feel angry that it's continuing to happen to anyone else,' says Jill Tardiff's friend

The friend of a Winnipeg woman who killed herself after being released from hospital is stunned to learn a man with mental illness is missing following his release from hospital. 2:01

The friend of a Winnipeg woman who killed herself after being released from hospital is stunned to learn a man with mental illness is missing following his release from a Winnipeg hospital.

"Again, nothing was learned," Debbie Lazaruk said. "I am angry that this happened to my friend, and I feel angry that it's continuing to happen to anyone else."

Reid Bricker has been missing since Saturday after he was released from Health Sciences Centre at 3:20 a.m., his family says. Bricker had also been admitted and released from Seven Oaks and St. Boniface hospitals following two suicide attempts in the days leading up to his disappearance.

The situation is far too similar to what happened with Lazaruk's friend Jill Tardiff, she said. Tardiff went missing in September following her release from Seven Oaks Hospital, where she was receiving treatment for depression. Tardiff's body was pulled from the Red River on Sept. 10. She took her own life.

"Somebody has to look at the policy and decide this person has cried out for help. This person has said they want to kill themselves. A review has to be done."

Manitoba legislation needs to change: advocate

Bricker's family was not notified he was let out of Health Sciences Centre. Without patient consent, medical staff are prohibited from disclosing an adult's health information under the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA).

The family said they found out through police on Sunday their son was released 3:20 a.m. the day before, alone, without transportation, money or identification.

"It's unfortunate. It's very sad, and it's worrisome," said Chris Summerville, executive director of the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. "Personally, it doesn't sound very humane, that you would be letting someone out at that time in the morning.… At least wait until daylight and … refer him to places that were open."

The privacy act is in place to protect patients' confidentially, but it's too strict in some areas, Summerville said. 

"There should be allowance as they made in B.C. I believe where family members or nearest of kin are notified in circumstances like this," he said. "It just seems just common sense that the person giving some care would have pertinent information about the situation with their loved one, minimally that they are being discharged, especially if it's 3:30 in the morning."

In British Columbia, the law allows health professionals to "release necessary personal information to third parties without the consent of the client where disclosure is required for continuity of care or for compelling reasons if someone's health and safety is at risk," according to the Schizophrenia Society of B.C.

Summerville said he would like to see physicians allowed to divulge information to family members or caregivers whose loved ones live with them or have been on suicide watch. 

"You never know the state of the individual, if they are well enough to be alone. It's one thing to be released [but] then to be alone, which adds to the isolation and depression and potentially compounds the situation."

WRHA reviews Bricker contact with hospital

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority confirms a review of Bricker's care at Health Sciences Centre has been conducted. 

"Based on concerns raised to us by the family, the care provided was reviewed and it was determined that appropriate care was provided and staff followed the safe discharge guideline," says a statement emailed to CBC by the health authority.

According to the WRHA, the decision to discharge a patient "is done in consultation with patients and any supports they identify, and is done based on clinical judgment." 

"Competent patients may elect to involve family members or personal supports, but they may also refuse that connection, in which case, hospital staff will not disclose personal health information per the patient's wishes. It is important to remember that patients with chronic conditions, including mental health conditions, are discharged from hospital after an acute episode has been resolved and/or when the patient elects to leave.… Discharge [for involuntary patients] occurs once a patient is medically cleared to leave and a follow-up care plan is in place."

Bonnie and George Bricker said they do not blame the health authority or the hospital but they too would like to see changes to privacy legislation. 

However, their focus remains searching for their missing son. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact the missing persons unit at 204-986-6250.

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