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Disappearing patients at Alberta Hospital

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Disappearing patients at Alberta Hospital
prompts review

Psychiatric patients have wandered away from Alberta Hospital, the main mental health facility in Edmonton

Health-care officials call it “elopement against medical advice” and a common occurrence at psychiatric facilities around the world.

But after a flurry of recent cases in Alberta, including a 44-year-old woman who vanished without a trace from Alberta Hospital the provincial government has ordered an inquiry into the problem.

“We take these cases extremely seriously, and if there are any improvements to be made, we will make them,” said Chris Mazurkewich, chief operating officer of Alberta Health Services, which oversees health care in the province.

Douglas Campbell, 32, escaped custody at the facility while he was playing basketball in an outdoor area that officials said was secure.

He climbed a three-metre wall and ran. Mr. Campbell was located in the city’s downtown nearly two days later.


Meanwhile, the family of Melissa Ekkelenkamp, who walked away from the hospital on July 6, 2011 and hasn’t been seen since, continues to worry for the woman’s safety. The 44-year-old had called police during a period of extreme paranoia before she was admitted to the facility.

“This is a another symptom of ongoing chaos in the system,” said Alberta Liberal Leader David Swann, who is also a doctor.

In 2006, Diana Yano, who had a history of homicidal and suicidal behaviour, was an in-patient at the psychiatric unit of Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary when she leapt to her death from the third floor of the hospital’s parkade.

Also that year, Carol Strate, who was a patient at Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre with a longstanding history of mental-health issues, died after jumping from the fifth floor of the hospital parkade.

The deaths were among cluster of suicides that prompted a review and a new risk-management program.

Lorraine Adolph, 68, disappeared from Alberta Hospital after she went outside for a cigarette. Her frozen body was found in the snow one week later, less than 400 metres from where she was last seen.

More recently, concerns were raised when a man hanged himself on a wall hook at Villa Caritas, a private facility originally envisioned to house long-term care patients, but instead was used by the province to house geriatric patients from Alberta Hospital.

Vila Caritas

Arnold Barstad died despite a warning from the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees that coat hooks and closet rods posed safety concerns for psychiatric patients.


“We are confident in our facilities, in our care, in our staff and in our physicians,” said Cathy Pryce, vice-president of addiction and mental health with AHS.


Published 27/04/19