The family of a Londonderry man whose body was found in the grounds of Gransha Hospital three days after he disappeared from Altnagelvin Hospital say what happened to him should never be allowed happen again.
At an inquest held in Coleraine yesterday the court was told how William Mowbray of 40 Primity Terrace, Newbuildings, a man with a known history of alcohol abuse and depression, left a ward in Altnagelvin Hospital on New Year’s Eve for a cigarette and failed to return.
The court was told that the Trust’s Absconding Patient Protocol which has been developed in agreement with the PSNI should have been activated the moment Mr Mowbray left the ward - but in fact was not activated until two hours later.
His disappearance resulted in wide scale searches of the River Foyle by friends and family, and many volunteers who helped in searches organised by Newbuildings Community Centre
His body was found by his family on January 3 in the grounds of Gransha Hospital.
Following his death the Trust carried out a report into Mr Mowbray’s disappearance from the ward and in their findings concluded that when a patient leaves a ward the absconding patient protocol should be activated immediately and the next of kin informed at the first opportunity.
The coroner Mr John Lecky said it has been acknowledged by staff that this protocol should have been activated as soon as the patient left the unit.
“The key point is the implementation of the absconding patient protocol,” he said. “I’m told that this has been addressed.”
Brendan Kearney, solicitor for the Mowbrays said the family felt relieved by the findings of the report but that their main concern was that the protocol was put in place and this should never happen again.
“I am glad to hear the family has been reassured by the report,” said Mr Lecky. “I’m sure the family will agree that the emergency department is a very pressurised place, particularly on New Year’s Eve and it certainly isn’t an easy task keeping an eye on every patient.
“I’ve been to Altnagelvin Hospital myself and there are a number of exit points from the hospital grounds.”
The coroner found that Mr Mowbray died from injuries consistent with drowning after being found in a pool of water in Gransha Hospital.
He said Mr Mowbray had been admitted to hospital after suffering a seizure at home after being taken to Accident and Emergency by ambulance.
He added that the 59-year-old had become aggressive to staff in the ward and had gone for a smoke, when he did not return the patient protocol was activated.
“It is accepted that this protocol should have been accepted when he left the ward,” he added.
Extending his sympathies to the family, the coroner said he was glad they had felt assured by the inquiry and that recommendations in it had been implemented.
A solicitor for the Western Trust also extended their sympathy to the family.