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Hospital changes policy after staff forced to wait to report missing man

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EDMONTON - An Edmonton psychiatric hospital has made policy changes after staff were forced to wait about eight hours before they could ask police to help find a missing patient.

A fatality inquiry heard Eugene Cormier had already jumped off the High Level Bridge when police were contacted in January 2011.

The 25-year-old man had been admitted to Alberta Hospital for paranoid schizophrenia and substance abuse.

He had been granted a 15-minute pass to walk around the hospital's grounds but didn't return.

Staff searched the area, then couldn't find a doctor to sign a form required before contacting police.

A judge says the hospital now allows a nurse to sign the form, but he hopes the policy change will be formalized and enforced.

Provincial court Judge James Wheatley wrote in a report released Thursday that protocol should be reviewed on a constant basis and communicated to all levels of staff.

He also said the hospital needs to keep more electronic records. Staff were unable to find a paper sign-out sheet when Cormier left for his break, so it wasn't recorded.

Wheatley said electronic systems are already in place in many hospitals.

"Such a system would ensure records would not be lost and would also facilitate a review of records by all staff on a timely basis, especially in respect of observation levels and off-site privileges," he wrote.

"Alarm functions can be placed into such an electronic record- keeping system to ensure enforcement of absence off-site visiting or other privileges."

Police and fire crews searched for Cormier's body in the North Saskatchewan River after a man was spotted jumping off the bridge. Because the water was still partially covered in ice and snow, his body wasn't recovered until three months later.

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