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Woman confined in psychiatric unit for 4 months wins release

A 75-year-old woman is glad to be back home after she won her case to be discharged from a geriatric psychiatric unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital. Georgette McBain was held against her will in the hospital for four months.
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Georgette McBain, 75, is back in her Sidney condo after being held against her will in the geriatric psychiatric unit of Victoria's Royal Jubilee Hospital. She argued her case before a mental health review panel and won.

A 75-year-old woman is glad to be back home after she won her case to be discharged from a geriatric psychiatric unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Georgette McBain was held against her will in the hospital for four months.

“I was treated with medication from morning until night,” McBain said. “I went through hell.”

The senior citizen applied to have her case heard before the Mental Health Review Board.

On June 25, panel members determined that McBain’s involuntary admission did not meet the requirements of the Mental Health Act, and she was discharged.

In order for patients to be certified and involuntary admission arranged, they must meet certain criteria, such as requiring care, supervision and control to prevent substantial mental or physical deterioration for their protection or the protection of others.

Any patient has the right to request a review of their certification. Mental Health Act certifications are also reviewed by the board at specific intervals. According to the panel’s decision, McBain’s involuntary status had last been reviewed on April 17.

Under patient confidentiality and privacy rules, Island Health can not talk about the specifics of McBain’s case.

But “an assessment by the review board that finds a patient is no longer certifiable under the Mental Health Act does not imply that the decision to certify the patient initially was not appropriate,” said Island Health spokeswoman Sarah Plank.

“Our primary concern is the health and well-being of our patients, and in particular those who are vulnerable and at risk.”

The decision to certify a patient is made only after a comprehensive assessment by a doctor, which is reviewed and approved by a second doctor, Plank said. Staff care deeply about the welfare of patients, and clinicians try to use the least intrusive and most effective measures.

McBain, whose husband died about 20 years ago, lives alone in her Sidney condominium.

She complains of stabbing pains and has had myriad tests. By her own admission, she calls doctors and the hospital frequently.

The senior was admitted to Royal Jubilee on Feb. 19 with pneumonia.

When doctors recommended that she undergo psychiatric assessment, she said, she left the hospital. Hours later, police went to her condominium and returned her to the hospital, McBain said. On March 14, she was placed on the geriatric psychiatric ward.

Doctors at Royal Jubilee have diagnosed McBain with mental-health issues, but McBain argues that her problems are medical and that she can live independently in the community with assistance.

Now that she has been discharged, McBain is being monitored by Island Health’s seniors outreach team.

A lot of seniors struggle with mental health-issues, “but detaining them against their will is not appropriate,” said lawyer Tess Acton. She and Lisa Jozsa, both of the Genesis Law Group, presented McBain’s arguments to the review panel.

“[McBain] wants to live in her community and seek the support she feels she needs, and that’s what the panel decided was appropriate.”

charnett@timescolonist.com