East York Mirror
For the second time in two weeks, the community gathered to learn about safety at Toronto East General Hospital and the surrounding community.
Following an open house July 12 at the hospital, Beaches-East York Councillor Janet Davis and Toronto-Danforth Councillor Mary Fragedakis hosted a town hall Monday, July 23, night to talk about code yellows, as well as parking and traffic.
Fragedakis said she received a lot of calls and emails after a July 11 incident where a patient went missing who police reported was a danger to himself and others. This followed an incident in February where Michael Eligon walked out of TEGH and was later shot by police wearing a hospital gown and wielding scissors.
“We’re lucky to have a hospital in the heart of our neighbourhood, but I know there are some challenges associated with being located right in the middle of a residential neighbourhood,” Fragedakis said.
“We aren’t a place where we incarcerate. We’re a p
“We know incidents have caused some concern (in the community).”
The most high profile incidents in the past year have been the two code yellows (the hospital code for a missing, wandering or eloped patient), but there have also been incidents of theft that have led the hospital to review its safety procedures and become more transparent about the issue.
Rob Devitt, TEGH president and CEO, was on hand Monday to answer questions, but he also led The Mirror through a tour of the hospital Friday morning giving a peak inside the security office with more than 280 cameras and showing how the hospital’s “wander guard” technology works to keep patients with dementia or elderly confused patients from wandering away from unlocked wards.
The majority of patients - whether it be patients prone to wander or patients being treated for mental health concerns - are not kept locked down in the hospital because that isn’t conducive to treatment, Devitt said.
“We aren’t a place where we incarcerate. We’re a place of healing,” he said Friday and reiterated that point on Monday to the crowd of 50 saying, TEGH is not a prison.
Questions from residents ranged from use of force by police to what information is communicated to local schools and day cares in the event of a missing patient to asking what the community can do.
Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue said he was attending the town hall as a concerned resident; he also attended the walk that took place after Eligon’s shooting death.
“I didn’t know Michael Eligon, but I know what happened was not right. Something needs to be done,” Prue said.
“We cannot see a man shot dead on the street in his stocking feet in a hospital gown who stole scissors. It’s not right...I cast no dispersions, but I know in my heart there’s got to be a better way.”
Police and TEGH officials can’t comment on the circumstances of the Eligon case as a coroner’s inquest has been called.
One solution that might have helped on that day was if TEGH and 54 Division had a mobile crisis intervention team (MCIT), which is made up of a nurse and a police officer with specialized training. St. Insp. Peter Yuen, 54 Division’s commander, explained when an MCIT would be called in.
“If there’s a person in crisis that we believe less lethal support could be used and we’d go there to mitigate the situation,” he said.
Cindy Rose is a registered nurse specializing in community mental health and a member of 54 Division’s Community Police Liaison Committee. She’d like to see a MCIT in her community.
“A mobile crisis team at Toronto East General and 54 Division is desperately needed,” she said. “Not only in 54 Division, but every division in the entire police force should have a mobile crisis unit.”
The hospital recently submitted its third proposal for a MCIT to the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network.
“It was easier to get a $211 million redevelopment approved at Toronto East General than it is that team,” Devitt said, but added it wouldn’t solve all of the security concerns of the community.
Devitt said the hospital averages two code yellows a month and the vast majority of those are seniors who are confused or have dementia. But, it is the small number of high-profile incidents involving mental health patients that attract the attention of the community and the media.
There were also concerns from residents about patients who go outside for a smoke or a walk wearing (or barely wearing) a hospital gown or who make them feel uncomfortable.
Devitt said one way to deal with these concerns is through education and awareness around mental health.
“We still have a lot of issues around it...We need to talk about it to normalize it because it is normal. It’s no different than a cardiac patient,” he said. “We don’t give passes to patients who the care team feel there’s a danger with. These are citizens. They have all the rights we all have.”
Devitt said the hospital was considering holding quarterly open house meetings on specific topics and the first one should maybe focus on issues surrounding mental health.
Davis and Fragedakis created a petition for resident to sign to advocate for an MCIT for TEGH; the hospital also said letters of support from residents might help get this third application approved.