Inquest begins into patient's death at Hillsborough Hospital

Ryan Ross
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Dr. Roy Montgomery leaves the P.E.I. Supreme Court building in Charlottetown Monday after overseeing a coroner's inquest into the death of Sherry Jean Ball in 2013.

Jury hearing evidence during first day of coroner's inquest into death of Sherry Jean Ball

A 47-year-old woman who committed suicide at the Hillsborough Hospital in 2013 had staff checking on her regularly the day she died, a coroner's inquest heard Monday.

Sherry Jean Ball was a patient at the psychiatric hospital on Dec. 1, 2013, when a resident care worker found her in a bathroom where she had hanged herself.

A coroner's inquest into Ball's death was announced in January 2015.

An inquest doesn't seek to assign guilt, but rather is a public inquiry meant to determine the facts related to a person's death.

A six-person jury will hear evidence during the inquest being overseen by Dr. Roy Montgomery and held at the P.E.I. Supreme Court building in Charlottetown over several days this week.

After hearing all the evidence the jury will come up with a list of recommendations.

Ball was under public guardianship at the time she was admitted first to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and then Hillsborough Hospital in November 2013.

She was also required to remain in hospital under an order from the Criminal Code Review Board.

That board reviews cases where someone has been found not criminally responsible for their actions.

During Monday's proceedings, the jury heard testimony from several people who were on duty the night Ball died, including the resident care worker who found her.

The worker said Ball was fine her first night in the unit, but on Nov. 30, 2013, she was agitated.

During her time at the Hillsborough Hospital, Ball was under a watch that saw staff check on her first every hour, but later every 30 minutes after her demeanour changed.

The next day the worker went to get Ball for that night's meal, but there was no response when he knocked on her door.

He went into the room and found Ball in the bathroom where she had used a cord from a radio to hang herself from a shower rod.

Since Ball's death, the Hillsborough Hospital has switched to shower curtains that attach to a track in the ceiling using Velcro.

After the worker found Ball, he yelled for the licensed practical nurse on duty who called a code blue, which means a patient is in distress.

Hospital staff from another unit also responded, but they weren't able to resuscitate Ball.

Some details from the proceedings are on a partial, temporary publication ban after a request from Health P.E.I., which has standing at the inquest. The Guardian and the CBC opposed the ban, but Montgomery imposed it to cover some of the details, at least until the jury makes its recommendations.

Crown attorney Jeff MacDonald told Montgomery he spoke to a representative of Ball's family and they had no specific position on the publication ban.

Among the details covered by the ban is Ball's medical history prior to her admission to the Hillsborough Hospital on Nov. 29, 2013.

The inquest resumes today.

Organizations: Hillsborough Hospital, P.E.I. Supreme Court, Queen Elizabeth Hospital CBC

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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