Nova Scotia urges steps at psychiatric hospitals to protect public

A Nova Scotia government review released today lists better tracking and more frequent assessments of forensic psychiatric patients among the 18 recommendations prompted by the death of Halifax gay rights activist Raymond Taavel in April.

Andre Noel Denny, a psychiatric patient at the East Coast Forensic Hospital, faces second-degree murder charges in Taavel's death. Denny had failed to return to the hospital after being granted a one-hour leave last April — an incident that led government officials to review release protocols for psychiatric patients.

The review identified significant gaps where improvements "can and must be made to increase public protection," the report says.

Chris Power, CEO for Capital Health, said the health-care network is committed to closing those gaps in the system.

The joint review was led by:

Deputy ministers from the health and justice departments.

The CEO of Capital Health.

Dr. Alex Simpson from the University of Toronto.

Dr. Johann Brink, clinical and scientific director for the Forensic Psychiatric Services Commission in British Columbia.

The review found the East Coast Forensic Hospital procedures were "similar to and in some areas more advanced" than hospitals in other parts of Canada. A joint review said the practices in granting community access to patients "met or exceeded provincial standards."

Denny was granted a one-hour leave leave April 16. Taavel, 49, was killed in the early hours of April 17 outside Menz Bar, a popular gay club on Gottingen Street in Halifax.

Police said it appears Taavel tried to break up a fight between two men after leaving the bar.

Denny was arrested in a nearby alley shortly after the attack.

In court documents, Denny is described as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He is also described as being grossly psychotic with a history of aggressive impulsivity and unpredictability.

Minister of Health and Wellness Dave Wilson said the government supports all 18 recommendations.

Justice Minister Ross Landry also accepted the joint review's recommendations.

He said the events of April 17 cannot be changed.

"A tragedy spurred this critical review. It is hoped these improvements honour the memory of a man who was deeply committed to positive change in his community," read the report.

Wilson said he doesn't know the cost of implementing the recommendations, but procedural changes recommend in the review wouldn't come with much of a price tag.

The report did not mention whether GPS tracking bracelets would be used for patients, but the Capital District Health Authority will explore using cellphones or pagers to monitor patients on leave.

[ [ [['xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx', 11]], '27013743', '0' ], [ [['keyword', 9999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999]], 'videoID', '1', 'overwrite-pre-description', 'overwrite-link-string', 'overwrite-link-url' ] ]