Bendigo Health says it has reviewed and updated its policies for when psychiatric patients leave community care units after a woman who left Vahland House in 2010 never came back.
Lynette Roberts, aged 49, died at 9.15pm on December 16, 2010, when she was struck by a car in Dunolly after travelling to the town from Bendigo earlier in the day.
She was living in the community care unit at Vahland House at the time, which allowed psychiatric patients to leave the facility during the day.
Ms Roberts 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.
An inquest was held into her death, results of which were published earlier this year.
Bendigo Health recently responded to a number of recommendations from Coroner Jennifer Tregent, one of which was to create a “clear policy” for when community care patients leave the grounds of the psychiatric facility.
Bendigo Health’s clinical director of mental health services, Associate Professor Philip Tune, said community care unit patients are signed in and out when they intend to leave the premises.
Coroner Tregent said that next of kin should be notified 24 hours before a patient is moved from the secure unit, but Professor Tune, in response, said setting a specific time frame would be impracticable, given some patients are required to be discharged or transferred “in a very quick time frame”.
She also recommended that staff be given regular training in risk assessments and be required to make comprehensive patient notes at the end of their shifts.
Professor Tune said various existing policies at the hospital require staff to make comprehensive patient notes.
Ms Tregent said nurses “were genuinely concerned for her best interests” and were not at fault, but suggested the search for Ms Roberts was unnecessarily delayed.
“I do not agree that Lynette could not be said to have been engaging in high risk behaviour,” Ms Tregent said in her report.
“As was known to (the nurse), Lynette had the ability to travel long distances and procure alcohol even without the benefit of financial assistance.
“Given these facts were known to (the nurse) and other nursing staff in the morning and afternoon shifts, the search for Lynette should have commenced earlier.”
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