Patient commits suicide at Fletcher Allen Health Care

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(Host) Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington says a psychiatric patient committed suicide at the hospital earlier this week. The hospital says it’s responsible for patient’s death because it failed to check on the patient as required.

Fletcher Allen officials won’t reveal any information about the patient of the nature of the suicide, citing the family’s wishes.

The head of psychiatry, Dr. Bob Peirattini said the hospital procedures for ensuring the patient’s safety were not followed:

(Peirattini) “We learned that we did not check on that patient at the prescribed 15 minute intervals that were required under the care plan. We learned that there was a gap of approximately one hour when the patient was not checked on and it was during that gap that the suicide occurred.”

(Host) The hospital has undertaken an internal review and has reported that incident to state officials and to the national organization that certifies hospitals.

Dr. John Brumsted is Chief of Quality care at Fletcher Allen. He says there was confusion about which staff members were responsible for performing checks on individual patients.

(Brumsted) “Envision yourself working on a unit where you’re attempting to communally take care of your patients with the best intentions, covering each other and going back and forth. You can see that in that type of environment where everybody is trying to do the best thing for the patients and their colleagues, you’d think on the surface that might seem like a great thing. But that’s not a system.”

(Host) Dr. Pierattini said staff changes added to that uncertainty.

Officials also noted that there was confusion among staff about what constitutes a patient check – whether it was calling through a door to patient or having a face-to-face conversation.

The organization that certifies hospitals will investigate how the suicide happened.

Fletcher Allen officials say the last psychiatric in-patient suicide was in the 1980s.

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