The drowning of a 59-year-old mental health patient three years ago has prompted a single recommendation for improved monitoring of patients at a Selkirk facility.
Ronald Bobbie’s 2014 death and a resulting provincial court inquest brought attention to the need for nursing staff to keep tabs on patients’ comings and goings at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre, according to Judge Lindy Choy’s inquest report, released Friday.
The judge focused on one area of the facility, where Bobbie had been able to slip out unnoticed when he left without permission on the afternoon of Sept. 26, 2014. He went to see his mother, who called the centre to let staff know he was there and would be on a 7 p.m. bus back to Selkirk. Just after 9 p.m., Bobbie was pulled from the Red River near the Redwood Bridge. Witnesses had seen him in the river calling for help, but he didn’t survive.
Bobbie had been an involuntary patient at the Selkirk Mental Health Centre for 12 years, after he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and found not criminally responsible for arson, uttering threats and a breach charge in 2002. The inquest heard as his condition improved, he would be granted more privileges and would often be granted day passes to leave the facility and visit his family. Bobbie often left to see his family even if he was not given permission, but had a pattern of returning each evening. The facility was developing a plan to release him, but in the weeks before his death, he had disagreements with staff over his treatment plan and refused to attend therapy.
The judge declined to make other recommendations, including any that would restrict the issuing of day passes for mental health patients in Manitoba. She wrote in the report that Bobbie’s "diagnosis and treatment needs were very unique and rapidly changing."
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