Report sparked by coffee shop stabbing released
An independent review sparked by the release of a 30-year-old mental health patient who allegedly went on to stab a stranger at a coffee shop has concluded with 22 recommendations aimed at improving communication between police and hospital staff.
Mohamed Amer, a man known to police across Canada for a list of violent and property-related crimes, was picked up by Vancouver police twice on Feb. 21 and delivered to St. Paul’s Hospital for assessment.
Both times he was released back into the public, and on the same day he allegedly sat next to a 71-year-old man at the Waves Coffee House on Hastings Street and plunged a knife into his torso.
The incident spurred an independent review by Vancouver Coastal Health, which released a report Thursday making a total of 22 recommendations.
The first recommendation proposes that patients delivered to hospital under the Mental Health Act must be held at least long enough to “complete an appropriate assessment and arrange disposition and have, when indicated, a psychiatric consultation.”
Others are aimed at enhancing communication between hospital staff and outside agencies, particularly the police.
According to the report, officers who were interviewed often said they were flabbergasted to see patients with mental illnesses who had been deemed high risk merely “assessed briefly” in the emergency department and then discharged.
But Providence Health Care, which operates St. Paul’s, says the physicians and staff responsible for assessing incoming mental health patients have no access to criminal records, and their primary focus is patient care.
The report also cites a significant decrease in the number of available hospital beds as a factor in the situation, citing statistics that show a 41.6 per cent decrease across Canada between 1985 and 1999.
Yet Dr. Maria Corral, head of psychiatry for Providence Health Care, said the number of patients being admitted with mental health issues has grown.
“We’ve seen a 43 per cent increase in the number of patients that present to St. Paul’s [emergency department] with mental health concerns over the last few years,” Corral said.
Despite the limitations, St. Paul’s said it plans to implement all 22 recommendations made in the report.
Amer was arrested at the scene of the stabbing and later charged with attempted murder and obstructing a peace officer. He returns to court in September for a psychiatric report.
To read the full the full report and all 22 recommendations, visit the Vancouver Coastal Health website.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Michele Brunoro