A 64-year-old patient spent more than a day lying on the ground outside an Ottawa hospital after she walked out of the mental health unit she’s been staying at and fell, according to her daughter.
Christina Hajjar said her mother left the Montfort Hospital last week “wearing nothing but a dress and slippers.” Roughly 27 hours passed before the woman was found by police, her daughter said.
Hajjar asked her mother what she did during those long hours, waiting to be discovered.
“She said ‘I prayed and I screamed and I prayed and I screamed and when I couldn’t scream anymore, I just figured I would die there.”
Found near hospital
Hajjar first heard her mom had left the hospital when staff called her around 2 p.m. on June 10 to report she had gone outside and not returned.
The hospital told her they were searching for her mother, but only later did Hajjar learn she had disappeared about five hours earlier.
Hajjar couldn’t help the search because she lives in Brampton, Ont., and had tested positive for COVID-19, she said.
Once the sun set on Friday, though, Hajjar decided to call Ottawa police. Then when she woke up on the Saturday to no news, she reported her mother missing.
Ottawa police confirmed they received a call just after 9:30 a.m. Saturday about a 64-year-old woman missing from a hospital on Montreal Road.
The woman was found “near the hospital” by police at 12:12 p.m. and underwent a health check from paramedics, according to police.
Hospital ‘very concerned’ about disappearance
A Montfort spokesperson said the hospital is “very concerned” and apologized to the patient and her family. CBC is not naming the woman to protect her privacy.
The hospital is also conducting an internal investigation, according to an emailed statement.
“It is essential for us to understand what happened and to review everything that can be done to prevent this kind of situation from happening again,” the statement read.
The hospital’s missing patient policy states staff first search the person’s unit and other departments, including locked areas, then the hospital grounds, the spokesperson added.
The spokesperson would not say whether the hospital contacted police in this case, where exactly the woman was found and why she wasn’t spotted when staff searched the grounds, saying that information is part of the internal investigation.
Mother’s mental state ‘fragile’ after ordeal
Paige Lennox, the CEO of Canadian Health Advocates Inc. who has been a registered nurse for 28 years, said she would have contacted police if someone disappeared while receiving care in her unit.
“That surprises me a little bit that the hospital didn’t take more of an active role in looking for her,” said Lennox, whose company helps people navigate the health-care system.
She described the situation as “concerning” because it’s especially important for staff to keep track of vulnerable patients, such as those on a mental health ward.
Hajjar said her mother admitted herself to hospital on May 21 but was never discharged. Hajjar has since spoken to Montfort officials and said she believes the hospital is taking the issue seriously.
Still, the incident has had a large impact on her mother.
“It’s made her mental state a lot more fragile,” she said. “She’s just worse. Period.”