Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Dear Media in Edmonton:


I am wanting to write about a public inquiry that is happening this week at the Edmonton courts, with the hopes that it might get covered in the news. My sister, Shaunnie Rebecca Payne, passed away in September 2012, while she was under care at Alberta Hospital.

Rebecca was 31 when she passed away, after years going in and out of different facilities.  She was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder, and had all the difficulties associated with it: couldn't hold down a job, difficult family relationships, housing troubles, substance use, etc. etc.  At any rate, long story short is that she was in Alberta Hospital in intensive care; after having been taken off her medications and started on Clozapine, she passed away suddenly.  On a Friday, she had a physical assessment by an MD, and then she was found dead in her bed on a Sunday morning. The post-mortem indicated that she had a toxic amount of clozapine in her blood. No one knows “why,” and thus, our family called for a public inquiry. 

As someone who works with, and cares a lot for, folks who live with Mental illness and substance use, I am very interested in advocating for better care for this population.  My hope in the inquiry process is that there will be recommendations that will be made, which cannot be ignored.  People should not die while they are in psychiatric intensive care.  I want the public to be made aware, and I don’t want other people to die from the same (possible) mistakes that were made. 

I see media as being a very powerful tool to help with these types of this, hence my reaching out to local media. People with mental illness should be in the hospital to when they need to improve, heal and be kept safe.  Medications provided to any patient should have the keenest of knowledge around them.  Policies surrounding staff competency, staffing levels, and observational rounds should be rigorous and promote safety for clients.  People should not spontaneously die while in a psychiatric ICU.   

My sisters death will hopefully open a door to preventing accidental deaths in controlled psychiatric environments.  No one going forward should die from a toxic level of their anti-psychotic medication in their blood serum. Health care needs to be kept accountable, and this should not be kept quiet. The inquiry is at the courts in Edmonton Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Please feel free to be in touch, my phone number is 778-628-1909, and I am around! (Though, on the road today from Vancouver, so coverage is spotty.)

Amelia Birch, RN, MSc. 
Sent from some sort of handheld electronic device

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