April 8, 2015 – 11:30PM
Legislative Assembly reporter at The Canberra Times
The ACT Coroner will investigate the first death recorded inside the Canberra Hospital’s specialist mental health assessment unit.
A female patient is suspected to have taken her own life inside the secure psychiatric assessment and observation facility on March 20.
An ACT Health spokesman confirmed last month’s death was the first recorded inside the facility, which opened in the hospital’s emergency department in April 2010.
Staff provide 24-hour supervision and treatment and crisis stabilisation and response for patients who present with an acute mental illness or disorder.
“ACT Health has referred a death at the Mental Health Assessment Unit in the Emergency Department at Canberra Hospital to the coroner,” the spokesman said.
“ACT Health extends its sincere sympathy to the patient’s family and friends.
“As this matter is being investigated by the coroner, ACT Health will not be commenting further.”
Designed to reduce cases of aggressive behaviour in the hospital’s emergency department, the facility offers specialised mental health assessment and treatment services in an environment created to be safe for patients and doctors.
It is not known how long the patient had been undergoing treatment or assessment in the unit.
After a mental health assessment, a patient may be observed and assessed further in the facility and can be released or admitted to another inpatient unit in the hospital.
Asked if changes would be made to resources or safety arrangements as a result of the death, a spokesman for Health Minister Simon Corbell said it was not appropriate to comment as the death had been referred for a coronial investigation.
In July 2013, police attended what is understood to have been a stabbing in the unit. A male patient is believed to have stabbed another male patient before staff intervened.
ACT Health also operates a separate adult mental health unit which provides voluntary and involuntary acute psychiatric care and treatment for people with a mental health illness in need of hospitalisation.
If you or someone you know requires assistance, contact Lifeline on 131 114 or Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636.
The Canberra Times