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AED not working, staff not equipped with naloxone when RPC inmate died, inquest hears

Star Phoenix logo Star Phoenix 2020-09-28 Thia James
a close up of a road: The Regional Psychiatric Centre, west of Central Avenue in Saskatoon. © Provided by Star Phoenix The Regional Psychiatric Centre, west of Central Avenue in Saskatoon.
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Correctional staff at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon were not equipped with the anti-opioid antidote naloxone, which was kept on crash carts in each unit, the jury heard on the first day of a coroner’s inquest into the death of inmate Otto Hansen.

Hansen, 46, died on Oct. 25, 2017 after he was found unresponsive by staff conducting checks on inmates at the federal forensic psychiatric facility. An inquest into his death began Monday morning with three of Hansen’s siblings and his son present.

Inquests are not fault-finding processes, but establish who died, when and the manner of death; they may also uncover dangerous practices and conditions.

Hansen had been serving a sentence since 2011 for second-degree murder in the 2009 death of Deborah Lynne Smith in Moose Jaw.

Coroner’s counsel Robin Ritter said the inquest jury will hear evidence that Hansen died after an overdose on hydromorphone, an opioid used to relieve pain, and that it was neither prescribed or administered to Hansen.

The first witness, correctional officer Jared Mackay, was on incident responder duty and received a radio call about an unresponsive inmate around 2:55 a.m. He gathered his equipment — an anti-stab vest, handcuffs, a CPR mask and OC pepper spray — and received another radio call, this time indicating medical distress, he testified.

Mackay estimated it took him about a minute to get to Hansen’s cell; the door was open and a male unit nurse and male correctional officer were inside, he said. He saw Hansen on his bed and the nurse checking for a pulse.

Mackay said Hansen was taken out of his cell so staff could start CPR. He and the officer at the scene continued CPR while the unit nurse went to get a crash cart, the first of which arrived within three minutes, he said. There was a problem with the pads on the automated defibrillator device, so another one had to be retrieved from another unit, which took about two minutes, he testified.

“Aren’t AEDs maintained?” Ritter asked.

“They should be,” Mackay replied.

When asked by one of Hansen’s sisters about an air tube that punctured Hansen’s lungs, Mackay said he remembered seeing blood at one point, but it wasn’t there when he left the scene.

The inquest heard drugs have been smuggled into RPC and that some inmates have “cheeked” their prescribed medication when it was dispensed to they could pass it to other inmates.

Mackay said visitors are screened upon entry, but there is presently no drug detector dog full-time at RPC. (The facility had one in 2017 and there is funding for two, the inquest heard.) RPC has no full-body scanners, which could detect drugs hidden in body cavities.

About 25 officers are on duty for day shifts, but on night shifts that number goes down to 13, Mackay testified.

tjames@postmedia.com

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