Patient found dead from hypothermia

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Coroner John Leckey has expressed concern about the death of a patient who went missing from a Coleraine hospital.

Mr Leckey is to write to the Health Minister and the Director of the Causeway Hospital outlining his concerns that a psychiatric referral had not been made for the patient.

Speaking at an inquest into the death of Alexander McKee, of Roemill Gardens, Limavady, Mr Leckey said he would also be providing the family of the deceased with a copy of his letter and any response.

Mr McKee’s body was found on waste ground at Wattstown Industrial Estate at Newbridge Road in Coleraine a week after he had gone missing. The waste ground was just half a mile from the hospital.

Mr Leckey said a post mortem showed Mr McKee had died from the effects of hypothermia and prior to leaving the Coleraine Hospital in December, 2012, there had been no formal assessment of his mental state.

Mr McKee was being treated for respiratory illness at the hospital. Searches were carried out by police and family members. The autopsy revealed moderate to chronic bronchial problems as well as emphysema and other medical issues, but nothing to accelerate death.

Mr McKee’s body was discovered by a man who had gone with a friend to ride a bike on waste ground.

A number of medical staff gave evidence at the inquest which heard that the night before Mr McKee went missing he appeared agitated and attempted to leave the ward.

A patient services co-ordinator with the hospital said that she had called the police when it was discovered Mr McKee was gone, relaying how he had talked about wanting to go to the pub.

She assured the Coroner that a full complement of trained staff, including a psychiatrist, doctor, Senior House Officer and crisis response team would have been available despite the fact it was so close to Christmas.

Mr McKee’s sister, Gladys McKee, told the inquest in Limavady: “Somebody was not doing their job because somebody should have known where he was.

“I know he was an alcoholic, I know the problems with alcoholics, but if he had been better looked after he might still be with us.”