Friday April 18, 2014

System struggles with two men charged in attacks

Two men with Huntington disease accused of assaulting psychiatric staff at city health facilities in unrelated incidents are being shuttled between health care and jail, as authorities struggle to house them.

A provincial court judge was told earlier this week that officials at Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre were making special plans to hold David Gray, 56.

Gray is charged with one count of assault against a nurse at Hillside Centre, a tertiary psychiatric facility on the RIH campus. Gray was formally charged Dec. 23.

Officials with Union of Psychiatric Nurses held a news conference Dec. 20, telling reporters that staff members at the centre no longer feel safe following the attack.

The Crown alleges the neurological patient hit a nurse in the face, knocking her to the floor where he pinned her. Union officials said it took eight staff members to remove Gray.

Prosecutor Adrienne Murphy said staff at Hillside "feel they can't treat him."

"He's been in a seclusion cell. He's not receiving medical treatment. He won't move. That staff is all-female."

On Christmas Eve, two RCMP members were dispatched to Hillside Centre, where they picked up Gray, who was in the back of the cruiser covered in his own feces while his matter was dealt with in provincial court.

Murphy said a warden at KRCC tentatively arranged for Gray to be transported to the jail, then moved to a room at RIH where he was to be guarded by two corrections staff. Already committed under the Mental Health Act, Gray was denied bail and is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 7.

The second Huntington's patient in court this week, Chad Neuendorf, is accused of assaults at RIH's psychiatric ward on Nov. 15 and 17. A psychiatrist has already determined he is not criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder but a court hearing has yet to be held.

Judge Roy Dickey ordered Neuendorf be sent for a 30-day psychiatric assessment. He was expected to be sent to KRCC, which Dickey acknowledged is not an appropriate setting, or to a provincial forensic psychiatric hospital.

Huntington disease is an inherited brain disorder. Symptoms typically appear in both men and women between the ages of 30 and 45, according to the Huntington Society of Canada. The degenerative disease causes brain cells to die. Symptoms include emotional turmoil and irritability.

In advanced stages, patients are largely rigid and require nursing. Death typically occurs 15 to 25 years after onset.

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