Vitalité makes changes at Restigouche psychiatric hospital after patient's suicide
Hospital has revised its system to enforce the requirement for routine checks
Vitalité Health Network has made changes to improve patient care at Restigouche Hospital Centre in Campbellton since the death of 38-year-old Martin Michaud.
Martin Michaud took his life in the correctional unit of the psychiatric hospital on Feb. 9.
Routine checks on him every hour during the night were supposed to be performed, but a coroner's report indicated three hours passed from when his room was last checked by staff to when he was found dead.
He died two days after the New Brunswick ombud released a report outlining mistreatment of patients, inadequate care and understaffing at the hospital.
Gilles Lanteigne, CEO of Vitalité Health Network, said the hospital has revised its system to ensure routine checks are carried out.
Staff must now testify they've seen the patient breathing, mark the time of their check and must make sure their rounds are validated by the night supervisor.
Along with those changes, the length of stay for patients is being monitored more closely. Lanteigne said the longest stays are now around 18 months, but hospital stays used to average 10 years.
"We're moving into better practices in a situation where we recognize that individuals have rights," Lanteigne told Information Morning Moncton.
"They have a right to be in the community, but they also have a right to need services at times."
Lanteigne would not say whether those changes were made as a direct result of Michaud's death.
"Any time there is a situation … we look at ways to improve our management system processes," he said.
Vitalité implementing reports
Lanteigne said the report by ombud Charles Murray was useful to Vitalité, although he thinks it did not recognize "all of the efforts that had been put in place."
The report triggered the Department of Health to hire a consultant, George Weber, who made recommendations to improve the facility. The recommendations included:
Developing a provincial framework of mental health and addiction care to identify gaps and measure outcomes and develop a provincial bed-capacity plan.
Discharging patients who no longer require tertiary-care services into programs that better meet their needs.
Assigning someone to monitor and ensure quality control of forensic assessments.
Developing competitive recruitment and retention strategies for "specific and essential" health-care professionals.
Lanteigne said Vitalité is working on implementing the recommendations, along with those in the ombud's report.
Although enough staff were working the night of Michaud's death, staffing levels did fall below what is required at several points during his stay in hospital.
Lanteigne said the hospital is working with the Department of Health to recruit and retain staff. Vitalité had made suggestions to the federal government for more staffing prior to Michaud's death, he said.
Lanteigne did not elaborate on how other ombud recommendations will be implemented at the hospital.
Family hasn't heard from Vitalité
Members of Martin's family said they have not had any contact or heard from Vitalité since he died, even though Lanteigne said it is standard practice for the health network to reach out to a family and offer support.
Lanteigne would not say whether the network has any plans to talk to the family.
"I cannot speak to this because it's a particular situation," he said, adding there could be "legal recourses" if he did.
Those potential legal recourses pertain to a class-action lawsuit launched earlier this year on behalf of patients at the hospital.
The lawsuit is seeking $500 million in damages for alleged "historic negligence" at the hospital dating back to the 1950s. The New Brunswick government and Vitalité Health Network are named as defendants.
With files from Jonna Brewer