Family takes legal action over mum's death

·2-min read

The family of a woman who died by suicide at a psychiatric unit in regional Victoria is taking legal action against the health service, which they say could have prevented her death.

Michelle Williams took her own life at the Alexander Bayne Centre at Bendigo in August 2016.

She was involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit, having earlier showed up at the Bendigo Health emergency department asking for help and reporting suicidal thoughts.

The health service ran the centre, and was on Tuesday convicted and hit with a $100,000 fine for failing to ensure people other than workers weren't exposed to health and safety risks.

The tragedy should not have happened, Ms Williams' daughter Tia said, and her family was glad Bendigo Health was held accountable.

"The tremendous pain and suffering we carry from the loss of our mum is unbearable. We miss her every single day and the hurt of not having her around is irreparable. Nothing will ever bring her back," Tia said on behalf of her and her three siblings.

"We hope that this is a step towards Bendigo Health taking responsibility for their enormous negligence, and that they acknowledge the irrevocable toll this loss has put on our family."

The family is seeking compensation from Bendigo Health for economic loss, pain and suffering, with legal representation from Slater and Gordon.

They have sustained profound psychiatric injuries because of the circumstances of Ms Williams' death, medical negligence lawyer Tom McKinnon said.

"Considerable effort has gone (into) reducing opportunities for mentally unwell people to take their own lives while they're receiving hospital psychiatric care, yet unfortunately, this case shows that these measures were not appropriately enforced in Michelle's treatment, and it is alleged that her tragic death occurred as a direct result," he said.

"We hope that the scathing coronial finding and this health and safety prosecution, to which the hospital has pleaded guilty, will result in Bendigo Health resolving the claims sooner rather than later so the family can finally come to terms with their loss."

Bendigo Health pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and accepted the court's decision, a spokeswoman for the health service said on Tuesday.

The service offered its deepest sympathies to the patient's family.

"Following the coroner's report we have made a number of changes to our protocols and practices. Our entire service strives for continuous improvement," the spokeswoman said.

The court also ordered Bendigo Health to pay about $5000 in costs.

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