Coroner's jury sees video of mentally ill senior's death at St. Joseph's Health Centre
Nokolaos Mpelos is seen banging on a locked door, falling and urinating inside his private room
A coroner's jury saw surveillance video that captured the physical and psychological deterioration and death of a mentally ill senior at St. Joseph's Health Centre on the second day of the inquest into his death.
Nokolaos Mpelos, 65, who had a history of mental illness, including schizophrenia, died of heart failure on May 26, 2013 after being admitted to the hospital complaining of suicidal hallucinations.
Mpelos spent more than 40 hours in the hospital before he died — spending some of that time in restraints on a bed inside a locked room in the emergency department's crisis unit.
The jury at the inquest watched extensive and frequently disturbing footage Tuesday that captured everything from Mpelos's arrival at the hospital to his eventual death.
In the video, Mpelos checks into St. Joseph's with police officers on May 24, 2013. He had called police with concerns about voices in his head telling him to kill himself and his deceased father.
After being assessed by hospital staff, who noted that Mpelos was irritable and swearing at them, Mpelos was held in a common area in the facility's emergency department. Video showed him losing his balance and wandering into another patient's room.
Mpelos moved to private room
Before midnight on his first day in the hospital, staff moved Mpelos into a private room for "safety" reasons, according to a nurse report examined by Paula Podolski, the hospital's mental health and addictions director at the time of the incident.
The video footage reveals Mpelos experienced a rapid decline.
On the first night, Mpelos is seen urinating inside his room, kneeling on the floor and talking to himself. Hospital staff locked the door of the room by the next morning.
Video captured in the early afternoon of the next day shows Mpelos banging and fiddling with the locked door before using an empty food container to defecate in the corner of the room.
At another point, a security guard pins a shirtless Mpelos against a wall before putting him back on the bed.
Later that afternoon, Mpelos was strapped to the bed in leather locking restraints for the first time.
He was held in the restraints three times, and was found unresponsive in that position during his second morning in the hospital. Staff tried to revive Mpelos but failed.
Podolski was questioned at the inquest Tuesday.
Asked by the legal representative of a mental health advocacy group what the hospital did correctly during the ordeal, she took a long pause before responding.
"Well, he was brought to [the emergency department] after triage quite quickly," she said, adding that staff showed compassion and performed the right blood tests for Mpelos's diabetes.
Hospital open to changes
In a statement, St. Joseph's Health Centre wrote that it will fully cooperate with the inquest, and that it has identified problems with how Mpelos was treated.
"St. Joseph's Health Centre sincerely regrets that Mr. Mpelos failed to receive the care he deserved while at our hospital. We extend our apologies and deepest condolences to Mr. Mpelos' family and loved ones," wrote spokesperson Sabrina Divell.
The hospital said it has already made more than a dozen changes following an internal investigation conducted after Mpelos's death, but St. Joseph's recognizes "that more may need to be done," according to Divell.
The inquest is expected to continue for another 10 days.