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Inquest hears of communication gap between doctors

A psychiatrist who treated a Brockville, Ont., woman who died of a prescription drug overdose told a coroner's inquest Monday that in retrospect he could have done more.

A psychiatrist who treated a Brockville, Ont., woman who died of a prescription drug overdose told a coroner's inquest Monday that in retrospect he could have done more. 

Dr. Neil McFeely treated the woman, Donna Bertrand, for three years beginning in the summer of 2005. The mother and former nurse died in December 2008, at the age of 41, just days after the death of 19-year-old Dustin King, an acquaintance who also died of a prescription drug overdose in the same downtown apartment. 

The inquest in Brockville, ordered by the province's chief coroner, will lead to recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

Joanna Bertrand believes her sister's psychiatrist should have been more aware of her medical history. (CBC)

Bertrand went to McFeely for treatment of her depression. She also used cocaine and suffered from lower back pain.

McFeely, who recently retired, prescribed an anti-depressent, as well as a drug for anxiety and one to help Bertrand with her concentration. 

Bertrand did not have a family doctor, so McFeely also wrote her a prescription for Percocet, a narcotic pain medicine.

McFeely told the inquest he hadn't conducted a physical exam to determine the level of her pain, nor did he contact her previous doctor, who had also prescribed Percocet. And when she did get a family doctor, McFeely made no attempt to pass on her file.

Joanna Bertrand, the sister of Donna Bertrand, said she wants to know why the doctors were not communicating with each other about her sister's condition. 

"How did he really know what she was on when he had no doctor's notes from any other doctor, family doctor, psychiatrist, anybody?" said Bertrand, who is attending the inquest.

King's mother, Brenda Wiles, was also in attendance Monday. She said most people don't realize the strength and addictiveness of oxycodone, which King did not have a prescription for. 

"I would have never known [of its strength] in a million years, until he died," she said.

The inquest continues Tuesday with Bertrand's doctor at the time of her death, Alan Redekopp. His name was on many of the pill boxes spread throughout Bertrand's apartment.