The daughter of the man charged with assaulting a nurse with a dumbbell at Abbotsford Regional Hospital said she repeatedly warned health workers about the danger posed by her mentally ill father before Tuesday’s attack.
That assault left an Abbotsford nurse with a broken jaw, fracture cheek bone and other serious injuries. It also spurred a call for more protection for health care workers from potentially violent patients.
Jen Goodkey said her father, Neale Heath, had tried to kill his wife – Goodkey’s step-mother – last week and was in a state of psychosis and under the spell of delusions. She said she warned health officials last week, and worries that he might still be a danger if officials don’t take his mental illness seriously.
Police were called after the original attack, as were paramedics, after Heath suffered a seizure. He was taken to hospital, but his wife didn’t pursue charges because of Heath’s mental state. Goodkey says she believes her father also intended to harm her.
While in hospital, Heath became violent again and was restrained, Goodkey said. She said she told several different health workers that they needed to be very careful around her father.
“I told them the he is very, very dangerous, that they needed to take him seriously.”
Goodkey said Heath grabbed his wife violently on a subsequent visit, but shortly after that incident, he was transferred to a medical unit on a different floor and restraints were removed. Goodkey said health workers were told that a dumbbell in his new room should be removed.
“They weren’t taking anybody seriously when we said how sick he is and how dangerous he is,” Goodkey said. “They had the restraints off and then early in the morning he attacked the nurse.”
A Fraser Health spokesperson has said that there is “security support available for one-on-one supervision of potentially violent patients,” and that a security officer was “nearby” at the time of Tuesday’s attack. The BC Nurses’ Union has called for more safety officers in hospitals and better training for those workers.
Goodkey, though, says that Tuesday’s attack came from an easing of restrictions on her father.
“If they would have listened and left those restraints on, that would never have happened,” she said.
Goodkey said a psychiatrist at the hospital expressed doubt to her over whether Heath was in fact schizophrenic. And after the attack she said she was told her father cleared his psychiatric evaluation.
But Goodkey said it’s clear her father is not mentally healthy. She says her father initially attacked her mother because God had “appointed him a prophet.” She said her father has previously been committed because of his mental state and had attacked her mother several decades ago while in a state of psychosis.
If Heath is released from custody without having his psychosis properly treated, Goodkey worries that her or her step-mother’s lives could be in danger.
Goodkey said she both wants her father to get the medical help he needs and for authorities to recognize the danger he poses without that assistance.
“He’s not well. He needs to be institutionalized or he will kill someone.”
Heath has been charged with aggravated assault. He is currently still at ARH, where he is being held under guard.
The News has asked Fraser Health for comment.
In an emailed statement to The News, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province is working with unions and health authorities to make workplaces safer. He said Michael Marchbank, the former CEO of Fraser Health, wrote a report this summer that included recommendations on how to reduce workplace violence.
“That report acknowledges that all healthcare stakeholders are concerned about the prevention of violence and identifies that there is good work underway,” Dix said in a statement emailed to The News. “The report makes recommendations and we are moving quickly on an action plan. I plan to share those recommendations and act on them in the coming weeks.”
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