Belfast Telegraph

Inquest into missing hospital patient Alexander McKee's death gives family no closure

BY DONNA DEENEY

The family of a man whose body was found on wasteground a week after he went missing from the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine say the inquest into his death has raised more concerns for them.

Limavady man Alexander McKee was last seen alive by nurses on the ward where he was being treated for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on December 23, who reported him missing shortly before 10am.

Police carried out a cursory search of the grounds at 11.34am.

A more intense search did not get under way until later that evening at 10pm. His body was found on December 30 on waste ground near the hospital.

Mr McKee, who was described in court as a chronic alcoholic, had left the ward where he was being treated early in the evening of December 22 and was found in a bed in a different ward.

Nurse Michelle McLearnon said that as there were not enough medical staff on duty to allow a one-to-one watch of Mr McKee to be facilitated, a security guard from the A&E department was asked to perform this task. He remained with Mr McKee all night until he went off duty at 7am.

Mr McKee's sister Gladys asked why no family member was informed that Mr McKee was in such a distressed state. She was told that staff did not want to disturb the family during the night.

Barbara Ann McQuire, the nurse on day duty on the day Mr McKee disappeared, said he had asked several times to go out "for a smoke".

She said that on one occasion he joked with the auxiliary member of staff who accompanied him outside for his cigarette that he wanted "to go to the pub and take an axe to someone's head", but staff felt he was joking.

Senior Coroner John Leckey, sitting in Limavady, asked if Mr McKee was assessed by a psychiatrist and said if it had been him, he would have ordered one. For the hospital, Roberta McShane told the court that Mr McKee was not in the hospital under a mental health order.

Mr Leckey said he intended to write to the Health Minister and the hospital about his concerns.

He recorded that Mr McKee died on December 23 of hypothermia.

Mr McKee's sister also questioned the level of care the hospital was providing for her brother.

His stepdaughter Kathy Harbinson said that the family came away from the inquest with more questions.

Belfast Telegraph

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