Parents blame hospital for daughter’s horrific death
THE distraught father of a young woman who died in a horror car smash in Melbourne's south-east has slammed the hospital psychiatric unit she was supposed to be in the care of at the time, for letting her run away.
Michael Dent said he believed the system had let his daughter Paige Dent down because the hospital allegedly knew of her tendency to escape from care.
The 25-year-old died when her BMW crashed into a pole on the Nepean Highway in Cheltenham about 5.30am on Saturday.
Tributes continue to flow for the young woman who has been described by her father as having a wicked sense of humour and great appetite for life.
The day before the tragic scene unfolded, Ms Dent reportedly ran away twice from Dandenong Hospital, the first time from a secure psychiatric ward and the second from the emergency department.
At the time her parents believed she was safe in hospital. They are now asking questions about the quality of the care she received there.
"Over five years it has happened about 20 times. I would ask questions about why she was able to escape like this and the hospital said security has a hands-off policy," Mr Dent told The Age.
Her mother Robyne Foster, who is in the final stages of terminal cancer, claims Dandenong Hospital wasn't equipped to deal with the complexities of her daughter's needs and failed to implement protocols to keep Ms Dent from absconding.
She said she watched on helplessly for five years as her daughter spiralled down a path of self-destruction, following an initial admission for drug-induced psychosis.
The publication reported that some days she heard voices telling her to hurt herself, other times she thought spiders were crawling on her skin.
"Paige was beautiful, she wouldn't hurt a soul, but she was in so much pain all the time, she kept hurting herself."
The last time Mrs Foster saw her daughter was about two weeks ago, when she fell asleep in her arms on the couch, the publication reported.
"We had these two precious hours and she was cuddling me so tight," Ms Foster recalled.
"She reminded me of the loving little girl I remember her being as a child."
A heartbroken Mr Dent said they (the hospital) had a duty of care and "if they had been doing their job this wouldn't have happened".
"This girl would still be alive. You can't just walk out of a jail but she was able to do that here."
After her first escape on Friday, it was believed Ms Dent travelled to her father's home in Hampton Park before police arrived to take her back to hospital.
"The police came to our house on Friday and knocked on the door and asked if Paige was here. She was bawling her eyes out, I could see the despair in her eyes … because she didn't want to go back to the hospital," Mr Dent said.
Ms Dent had escaped from the emergency ward just 20 minutes after arriving back at hospital, and within a matter of hours was dead.
According to recently released data from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, the country's health system is failing to meet the needs of people who present to emergency departments with a mental health crisis.
"Every year, more than 250,000 Australians present to emergency departments seeking help for acute mental and behavioural conditions," the statement read. "Patients are facing extreme wait times to be assessed, enduring longer periods of treatment and, as a result, leaving the emergency department prior to their treatment being completed."
In its report, released on Monday it stated that: "The worst nightmare for any ED clinician is a patient who leaves before their care is finished, before assessment and management can be completed, who goes home to deteriorate, or is found dead in a ditch the following day."
Jess Anderson from the Health and Community Services Union told The Age that because there were not enough staff rostered on to look over patients, people were finding ways to slip out of locked wards.
Some push past cleaners or relatives, or jump outdoor fences, she said.
"When people leave, the majority of them actually just go home, but there are the minority who do suicide once leaving the inpatient unit, or find ways to [harm themselves]," she said.
"It doesn't matter how much infrastructure you have, it's the level of supervision [that matters]. And unfortunately the mental health system is in such a crisis with staffing level that we are struggling to have the eyes on."
"We make the fence higher, they will find another way to jump the gate."
Authorities were yet to determine how the accident unfolded but police believed speeding, drugs and alcohol were factors.
"It's an incredible scene and I've been in the police force for 30 years," Senior Sergeant Warren Francis-Pester told Nine News.
Both directions of the Nepean Highway were closed for several hours as police investigated the accident.