Hospital plunge man denied a psychiatrist, inquest is told
The family of a man who jumped out a window at the Mater Hospital in Belfast have raised concerns at his inquest that he was not treated with adequate psychiatric care before he died.
Christopher Boyle (44) plunged to his death just before Christmas in 2008.
His aunt Helen Quigley told the court that her nephew required the attention of a psychiatrist, but was not seen by one.
She said he was a recovering drug addict and had a history of mental health problems.
Mr Boyle was admitted to the Mater Hospital after a fire broke out in his flat at the Easton Building on the Cliftonville Road in north Belfast in the early hours of December 14, 2008.
“Early on Sunday morning my son had been walking down Chris' road, and he noticed there were a lot of fire brigades outside the Easton Building,” said Mrs Quigley, who had cared for Christopher for much of his life.
“Chris' flat was on fire. He was brought to hospital and was in A&E for hours.”
She told the court she believed Mr Boyle was suicidal and that he deliberately set fire to the flat.
“He said he felt nobody cared about him and that nobody wanted to help. He told me that if he was put in a normal ward ‘something would tell him to jump out the window’.
“I reported this to a nurse straight away and the nurse recorded it.
“At this point he was jumping all over the bed, he took his IV out.
“We were frantically waiting for a psychiatrist,” she said.
“I was told that psychiatry had been called five times and that Sunday was their ‘off-day'.
Ms Quigley described how she went to visit her nephew in the hospital at lunchtime the following day, but wasn't allowed to speak to him properly as it was outside visiting hours.
She told the court that she was informed he was on a diabetic ward at that time.
“I asked the nurse was Chris a diabetic and she said no,” she said.
She stated that a nurse assessed Mr Boyle on the evening of December 15: “I was expecting a psychiatrist to see Chris. I was very angry,” she said. “I was concerned about his life, his safety and the safety of others.”
Consultant psychiatrist Dr Tim Dalkin, who is based in Edinburgh, said he found it “surprising that a psychiatric assessment was performed by a liaison nurse”.
The court heard that on December 16, the day of his death, staff decided to discharge Mr Boyle after noticing a marked change in his behaviour.
It was stated that staff at the hospital believed the patient had taken illegal substances on the ward and had a needle mark on his hand.
Dr Susan Grosse, a forensic scientist, told the court there was no evidence of recent substance abuse in the post-mortem.
“It was an error to decide to discharge him, he was delirious,” said Dr Dalkin.
Shortly after this decision was taken, Mr Boyle jumped out of the window.
Ms Quigley said that in the days leading up to his death, Christopher had been “petrified” and paranoid. “I have seen him on drugs, drink and coming down from both. This was the worst I had ever seen him,” she said.
Dr Doran, a GP at BelDoc, saw Mr Boyle on the Friday before his death.
“He did not appear psychotic to me. I suspected drug abuse,” said the doctor, who described how the deceased tried to break into his medical bag and crawled under the table in his surgery.
The inquest continues.