Clinic 'security issues' before death

Angela Pownall
Clinic 'security issues' before death

A nurse has told a court that security “has been an issue” at a WA psychiatric clinic where an involuntary mental health patient absconded and was fatally injured six minutes later.

Stephen Robson died on March 28, 2012 after he was able to leave the Alma Street clinic in Fremantle less than an hour after receiving electroconvulsive therapy.

Senior mental health nurse John Morgan gave evidence today at the inquest into the 47-year-old’s death.

Coroner Ros Fogliani is investigating the deaths of five Alma Street clinic patients between March 2011 and March 2012 in a three-week inquest.

Mr Morgan said patients are “very confused” after receiving ECT and needed help to orientate themselves.

But he said Mr Robson seemed to be recovering well after his treatment so he decided to escort him to the courtyard where he could have a cigarette.

Mr Morgan said once in the busy courtyard, a different patient began talking to him, and he told him he was unable to talk because he was escorting Mr Robson.

“As I was saying these words, I looked up and Stephen had vanished from the courtyard,” he said.

CCTV footage showed Mr Robson entering a lift and travelling to the fifth floor. He walked through entry/exit doors as a medical student entered using her swipe card.

Minutes later, Mr Robson was fatally injured on Hampton Road.

“In hindsight security certainly was and has been an issue,” Mr Morgan told the inquest.

The day before his death, Mr Robson was detained at the Alma Street clinic as an involuntary patient because of acute suicidal risks.

One of his treating doctors, Dr Tajinder Singh told the inquest Mr Robson, who had suffered depression and anxiety all his life, “expressed his wish not to be alive” to nursing staff three days before he died.

The court heard that WA chief psychiatrist Nathan Gibson found that Mr Robson’s patient safety plan was undated and unsigned in his medical file.

Dr Gibson also questioned whether the nurse had enough information to decide if it was safe to allow Mr Robson to leave the secure ward and be in the courtyard.

The inquest continues.