Teen patient transferred in handcuffs for psychiatric care

A mother is outraged that officials at a St. John's pediatric hospital handcuffed her distraught daughter and transferred her in a police car to a psychiatric hospital.

A mother is outraged that officials at a St. John's pediatric hospital handcuffed her distraught daughter and transferred her in a police car to a psychiatric hospital.

The girl, 15, and another patient at the Janeway Children's Health and Rehabilitation Centre were moved to the Waterford Hospital, an institution specializing in psychiatric care, on Saturday night, amid an apparent staffing dispute at the Janeway.

"I was very angry. Furious," said the mother, whom CBC News is not naming to protect the anonymity of her daughter.

The mother said her daughter was committed under the Mental Health Care and Treatment Act. She said that Janeway staff told her that her daughter had to be transferred to the Waterford by police escort.

"She should not have been handcuffed and put in a police car, and I was very upset," the mother said, adding the Waterford is not an appropriate place for a 15-year-old. 

"I couldn't be there when she was being brought out, because I knew I would be upset, and that would stress her out more."

The woman told CBC News that her daughter had to be moved from the Janeway this weekend because no nurses were available to work on the Janeway psychiatric unit.

"They told me that they all called in sick," the mother said.

Memos show staff concerns about stress

This weekend's developments came after a CBC News investigation uncovered internal memos that detail increased levels of sick leave and stress among nurses on the Janeway's psychiatric unit.

In the memos, staff warn superiors that children in their care are making daily suicide attempts, and that one nurse ended up in the emergency room herself, injured while saving a child's life.

CBC News approached the Eastern Health regional authority, which manages hospitals and other institutions in eastern Newfoundland, on Friday for comment on the memos. The authority may comment Monday on the matter.

Nurses recommended in the memos that teens be put in a more secure setting, or in a long-term treatment centre.

The mother said she feels the Janeway could have found an alternative to transporting her daughter in handcuffs.

"They should have found staff to work with her there, in the unit," she said.

"I really don't have an answer to that. I know the Waterford is an adult facility, and I don't think it's a place for a 15-year-old."