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P.E.I. judge subpoenas Hillsborough Hospital officials for refusing to provide records

Hillsborough Hospital, located close to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown, is a 69-bed psychiatric hospital that provides specialized care, long-term treatment and rehabilitation for individuals facing acute or enduring mental illness, cognitive disabilities or dementia conditions of the elderly.
P.E.I. Chief Judge Nancy Orr subpoenaed two health officials Feb. 6 after the Hillsborough Hospital refused to provide records for a court case involving a woman with serious mental health issues. - SaltWire Network

A P.E.I. judge is subpoenaing two health officials after the Hillsborough Hospital refused to provide records for a court case involving a woman with serious mental health issues.

The woman, who The Guardian has chosen not to name because of the nature of her mental health issues, appeared before Chief Judge Nancy Orr in provincial court in Charlottetown Wednesday for sentencing.

Instead, Orr adjourned the matter until Feb. 15, saying she would be subpoenaing administrator Verna Ryan, as well as the manager of the Hillsborough Hospital unit the accused lives on in the hospital.

The accused pleaded guilty in January to two counts of assault after incidents at a small-options home where she was living and at the Hillsborough Hospital where she is a patient.

Small option homes are facilities that give more intensive supports for people with mental health issues than they would get in a group home.

It wasn’t the first case involving the woman assaulting a Hillsborough Hospital employee, and she has been under the guardianship of P.E.I.’s public guardian office.

“Jails aren’t used to assist mental health cases." 
-Crown attorney Gerald Quinn

During Wednesday’s proceedings, defence lawyer Thane MacEachern said there is no case plan in place for his client, who is under the care of a social worker and a psychiatrist.

The woman is considered a voluntary patient but can’t discharge herself because she is under public guardianship, MacEachern said.

He told the court it’s not an option for her to return to the small-options home.

MacEachern said the woman stays in a room by herself at the Hillsborough Hospital, and it isn’t an appropriate housing option.

When the woman had people working with her after previous incidents, she made significant progress, but now it appears she is “starting from zero”, MacEachern said.

Lack of information

Orr said the hospital moved the woman to her own space after the unit she was on closed for renovations.

To assist the court, a release form was signed allowing Hillsborough Hospital to provide incident reports involving the woman, but Orr said the hospital wasn’t going to provide them.

The lack of information left Orr unsure how to proceed when it came to sentencing the woman.

Crown attorney Gerald Quinn said the case involved serious assaults, but the woman’s mental health needed to be considered.

“Jails aren’t used to assist mental health cases,” he said.

Quinn said he wasn’t going to ask to send the woman to jail.

Orr said if she put the accused on probation, the woman would just assault someone so she could get out of where she is at the hospital.

“It seems to me like a recipe for disaster right there,” Orr said.

As she considered how to proceed, Orr said she couldn’t think of any situation where one government institution refused to provide information when a release form was signed.

Orr suggested subpoenaing Hillsborough Hospital’s director to provide more information and a plan for the woman.

“Can’t be any worse than where we’re at,” she said.

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