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Tearful husband's plea at inquest of hospital plunge death woman for lessons to be learned


Anita Rooney

Anita Rooney

Michael Rooney has appealed for better mental health provision following the death of his wife, Anita

Michael Rooney has appealed for better mental health provision following the death of his wife, Anita

Freddie Parkinson


Anita Rooney

The husband of a woman who died after falling from a fourth floor hospital landing broke down in tears as he told an inquest that he hopes lessons can be learned from her death.

Michael Rooney spoke emotionally about his wife Anita (50), a respected businesswoman from Dungannon, on the second day of her inquest in Armagh Courthouse yesterday.

Mr Rooney, son Thomas and daughters Natalie and Chloe sobbed after hearing distressing witness accounts of how the incident unfolded on May 18, 2016.

That day, after 11am, Mrs Rooney was observed by a doctor on the fourth floor falling from a banister to the bottom of a stairwell on the second floor of Craigavon Area Hospital.

She suffered fatal multiple injuries.

At the time hospital staff were looking for the mother-of-three, who had a history of mental health problems, after she had been reported missing around 20 minutes earlier from the acute medical unit (AMU).

She had been admitted to the ward after being taken to the hospital's emergency department the previous afternoon, having deliberately misused alcohol, a prescription drug and non-prescription drugs, the inquest had heard previously.

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Mrs Rooney had been spotted on a bridge over the Blackwater River, where a passer-by approached her and then alerted the emergency services.

Previously, coroner Joe McCrisken was told that no formal risk assessment had been carried out on Mrs Rooney despite a triage nurse deeming her to be at "high risk of further self-harm".

Instead, her physical medical needs were addressed first, and the inquest noted this policy was in place not only in Craigavon, but across the UK.

It had been arranged, however, for a consultant psychiatrist to see Mrs Rooney on May 18, the day she died.

Mr Rooney cried as he told the inquest that he hoped his wife's death would lead to positive changes for the treatment of individuals with mental health difficulties.

"If Anita's death changes policy and that some day helps someone else down the line, then it's worthwhile," he said.

Praising AMU medical staff who cared for his wife, as well as those who tried to save her life, Mr Rooney reflected on how she had been affected by mental health problems for the five years prior to her death.

He explained that his wife's actions the day she died "could not have been predicted by anyone".

"I've no issue with the physical treatment, but with Anita's mental health treatment," he said.

"As a family, trying to get help for someone with a mental health problem was very difficult.

"With her mental health treatment, what we found was barrier after barrier. Anita presented herself well to those who didn't know her. I saw my wife go down so much, we were crying out for help and every door was shut."

Adding that he "tried his best, and kept trying" to get her help, he paid a loving tribute to his wife, whom he had been in a relationship with since he was aged 19.

"Anita was loving, talkative and kind," he added.

"She was gentle and she was a pioneer and was kind. She was an accomplished businesswoman.

"We'd been together a long time."

Following an investigation into Mrs Rooney's death, a new risk assessment tool has been introduced for Craigavon Area Hospital staff accepting patients from the emergency department, the inquest was informed.

Other changes, including a boosted psychiatric liaison team, have also since been implemented.

Meanwhile, Assistant State Pathologist Dr Peter Ingram told the inquest via video-link that such was the acute level of the injuries suffered by Mrs Rooney from her fall, that her chances of survival were "virtually none".

Earlier, a doctor from the emergency department recalled aiding colleagues with Mrs Rooney, outlining that all that could be done medically to save her life had been carried out.

"I don't know what we could have done differently to save her," he told Mr McCrisken.

He was thanked for his efforts, and those of his colleagues, by a legal representative of the Rooney family, who expressed deep gratitude on their behalf.

Mr McCrisken, who had previously said that the "12-hour period" between Mrs Rooney being found on the bridge and her time in hospital may point to recommendations being made in his ruling, will present his findings today.

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