WARNING: This story contains content that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
On day two of a coroner’s inquest into the death of Hillary Cooper in Saint John, N.B., coroner Emily Caissy heard from some of the Horizon Health Network staff on hand the night she died.
That night, she came to the nursing station asking if she could say goodbye to one of the nurses who was commonly on shift during that time. Staff believe it wasn’t unusual for longer-term patients to do this.
Hours later, the staff checked on Hooper during their 11 p.m. rounds. Staff couldn’t open the door to Hooper’s room, noticing through a small pane of glass in the door that Hooper wasn’t in her bed.
Staff quickly checked on the remaining patients before returning to Hooper’s room moments later. When they opened the door, the staff managed to move the bed out of the way before realizing that Hooper wasn’t in the second bed in the bedroom, but rather in the bathroom. Then, the registered nurses found a sheet from the bed jammed at the top of the door frame.
Hooper used the sheet in the door frame to hang herself in an attempt to take her own life.
Staff didn’t think much of an object blocking the door, which was reportedly common practice to prevent light from shining into the room and to stop the door from opening. Hospital staff later confirmed in the surgical intensive care unit that a seizure occurred during that time, and Hooper suffered a brain injury.
Hooper’s mother Patty Borthwick spent two years looking for answers in her daughter’s death, in a hospital where she thought her daughter would be safe. In December of 2022, an inquest was approved by the province’s chief coroner.
Renee Fournier, a director at Horizon Health, said on the stand Tuesday that Horizon has made two recommendations since then.
First, cut off the tops of doors to prevent similar instances.
Second, to move patients with borderline personality disorder to other parts of the hospital. Hooper was diagnosed with it in November 2020.
Fournier said there was a discussion around objects obstructing doors, but it was not released as a recommendation.
The inquest continues through to Thursday.
Global News will continue to follow this story.
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