Coroner probes patient’s death

A coronial inquest into the death of a Bendigo Health psychiatric patient has heard the woman had not been in contact with medical staff for almost 10 hours when she was struck by a car and killed six years ago.

Lynette Roberts, 49, left the Vahland House facility at 11.30am on December 16, 2010 and was not accounted for by the time nurses did their rounds at 4.40pm, after telling staff she was going to the supermarket.

She was struck by a car and killed on Broadway, Dunolly – more than 60 kilometres away – at about 9.15pm that night.

Under questioning from counsel assisting the coroner Karen Connell, Vahland House’s acting shift manager at the time Ruth Fisher testified that Ms Roberts, who was on a community treatment order prior to her death, was not bound to remain at the centre.

“Because she was a community patient it wasn’t really a concern that she wasn't present for that period of time,” she said. “They are given the freedom to make their own decisions.”

Ms Fisher testified Ms Roberts had gone to visit her aunt and uncle without notice on December 14, and was unable to comprehend the conditions of her treatment order, which required her to notify staff if she intended to leave.

Then, on December 15, Ms Fisher spoke with Ms Roberts’ treating psychiatrist, expressing concern about her safety and her repeated excursions from the facility.

But Ms Fisher told the court she was merely relaying the concerns of Ms Roberts’ family.

“I was just conveying what her relatives had said, so that was basically their words,” she said.

“There was no indication that her mental state had deteriorated.”

The court heard Ms Fisher had assessed Ms Roberts as low risk two days before her death and she had also been seen by a psychiatrist on December 15.

Ms Fisher said even with the benefit of hindsight there were no deficiencies in Ms Roberts’ treatment and there was “probably” nothing she would have done differently.

The inquiry continues before coroner Jennifer Tregent today.

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