Insecure hospital defends its secure medical unit

Hospital officials are befuddled by policy questions after a psychiatric patient walked out of the secure medical unit on Sunday afternoon and was lost for days in the woods.

Hospital officials are befuddled by policy questions after a psychiatric patient walked out of the secure medical unit on Sunday afternoon and was lost for days in the woods.

People should focus on the woman’s rescue, said Whitehorse General Hospital spokesperson Val Pike on Wednesday.

“That’s where the story should be, not about a patient who went missing,” she said. “They had 38 people out on the trails last night looking for this woman. I mean, that’s incredible for a town this size.”

“Yeah, we weren’t happy with it. We were worried for her health. But the focus of your story should be on the rescue efforts.”

Kathreen Denbrok slipped from the secure medical unit and walked out of the hospital’s main entrance at 2:37 p.m. on Sunday.

She was wearing blue hospital pajamas, hospital booties, a sweater and a toque.

The 37-year-old Denbrok was found on Tuesday by a 13-year-old boy fishing on Hidden Lakes. After the sighting was reported, RCMP expanded the search to the area, which they had no plans to examine.

When found at 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Denbrok had been missing for more than two days.

Initially, she had been brought to the secure medical unit involuntarily under the Yukon’s Medical Health Act.

She was deemed to be at risk of harming herself.

“I’m not trying to be miserable, but it seems like all the media are like, ‘Oh my God, there’s nothing else happening in town so I’m going to focus on the bad things that the hospital is doing,” said Pike. “And that’s not where this should be going at all.

“Patients don’t choose to have mental health issues. So let’s give this woman her privacy and not make her situation any worse than it already is.”

A patient walking out the front door dressed in pajamas isn’t unusual, said Pike

Patients go out to get fresh air or have a smoke all the time.

Denbrok probably slipped out after someone opened the unit’s locked door and didn’t close it properly, said Pike.

People come and go through the “secure” door all the time, she added.

Staff come and go, meal trays are delivered, clean and dirty laundry is brought in and out and family members often come in to visit patients.

Many patients are also allowed to come and go as they please.

No one guards the door.

“This is not a jail, not a forensic psychiatric unit or anything like that,” said Pike. “It’s a secure unit.”

Hospital staff noticed Denbrok was missing from her room, and, at 2:45 p.m., a missing patient alert – a code yellow – was called.

The RCMP was notified at 3:30 p.m.

Thus began the search of the trails and bush area beside the hospital.

When nothing was found, police searched downtown and along the Yukon River.

Then, on Tuesday, after she’d spent two nights in the woods, police and rescue teams combed the Hidden Lakes area and finally found Denbrok near Schwatka Lake.

The hospital isn’t releasing much information about the woman’s health after two days in the bush, citing confidentiality.

“She’s been returned and she’s in stable condition, and that’s all we’re prepared to say,” said Pike.

The secure medical unit was opened on March 31, 2010.

It was created by reconfiguring existing hospital beds, creating two seclusion rooms and adding a secure door.

Six mental health nurses were also hired, so that the unit could function as a psychiatric ward.

The new unit was touted as a “step in the right direction” towards dealing with the hospital’s “paltry” mental health facilities, by representatives from the Yukon Medical Association.

Although the secure unit has only been open for a little over a year, Pike can’t recall whether or not this is the first time that a patient has “eloped off”- which is hospital speak for going AWOL.

Now the secure unit has proven less than secure – leading to what could have been a very dangerous situation for the patient – what is the hospital doing to prevent this from happening again?

They’re reminding people to close the door, said Pike.

“We just talked to staff and sent out a memo saying: Please make sure that the door is closed behind you and make sure that visitors and other people coming onto the unit are closing the door as well.”

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

The now empty lot at 410 Cook Street in Whitehorse on Jan. 19. As developers move forward with plans for a housing development that would feature 16 micro-units, they are asking city council for a zoning change that would reduce the number of required parking spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Developer asks for zoning change

Would reduce the number of required parking spaces

The Liard First Nation is preparing to enter negotiations for self-governance with the territorial and federal governments. (Jackie Hong/Yukon News file)
Liard First Nation preparing to enter self-governance negotiations with Yukon, federal governments

Chief Stephen Charlie seeking an agreement separate from “dead end” UFA

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Jan. 20, 2021

A Copper Ridge resident clears their driveway after a massive over night snowfall in Whitehorse on Nov. 2, 2020. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the Whitehorse and Haines Junction areas for Jan. 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Winter storm warning for Haines Junction and Whitehorse

Environment Canada says the storm will develop Monday and last until Tuesday

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Most Read