Temporary Plexiglass barriers have been installed above the railings of the third-, fourth- and fifth-floor balconies in the Brandon Regional Health Centre atrium. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
A solution to construct barriers over Brandon Regional Health Centre’s atrium balconies has been finalized, BRHC chief operating officer says.
"We’re trying to be careful with taxpayers money," Brian Schoonbaert said Thursday. "We’ve looked at every option."
Plans to install permanent barriers on the third, fourth, and fifth-floor balconies overlooking the atrium were made by the Brandon RHA in 2011, after two people died after jumping from the fourth floor in separate incidents within seven months.
Temporary Plexiglas barriers were installed following the second incident in July 2011, and were supposed to be replaced with permanent structures by summer 2012.
However, the stairway looking over the atrium didn’t work with the temporary design, and has been closed since 2011.
"We’re disappointed this has taken so long, but we had to do it right," Schoonbaert said.
Options that included tearing down the original structure and starting from scratch were laid on the table, but the RHA said those would be exorbitant and wanted to maintain the original structure.
"It’s just a matter of adding to it. This is just as good and just as stable as starting from the ground up," he said.
The delay will soon be over, though, as the RHA expects Manitoba Health to quickly approve the new cost for the project.
"Cost is going to be higher than we thought," Schoonbaert said. "Manitoba Health is in support and we’re not expecting any delay with the solution."
It’s unclear on when construction will begin, but the RHA hopes to have the barriers up and the stairway reopened by the end of this year.
The 51-year-old woman who fell from the fourth-floor balcony in December 2010 was a patient at the nearby Centre for Adult Psychiatry and was eligible to be on leave at the time. The incident was seen as isolated and so no recommendations for structural changes were made at the time.
Prairie Mountain Health, which operates the hospital, is still in negotiations with a man who filed a lawsuit after the second incident.
Close to seven months after the first death, a 31-year-old man jumped and landed on a patient who was sitting in a wheelchair.
The incident caused mental trauma and painful injuries, including a fractured leg, according to the patient’s statement of claim.
Since then, security guards patrol the atrium 24 hours a day while the barriers are being prepared, to ensure something like this does not happen at the hospital again.
Aside from the atrium, other structural changes have been made to the hospital to prevent other incidents, mainly in smaller stairways used by staff.
"We put metal barriers in the ... central area between the stairwells, so that nothing physically could fall down there," Schoonbaert said.
Those changes were made directly by the hospital.
Meanwhile, Brandon Fire and Emergency Services has recently made an extension to an emergency response service that gives counselling to bystanders who may have been affected by an incident.
BFES is authorized to give bystanders the phone number for the Westman Crisis Stabilization Unit, is prepared to offer critical incident stress counselling, and is required to stay on the scene until police or the WCSU arrive.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 16, 2013