|Notre-Dame hospital. (Chantale Poirier/QMI Agency)
MONTREAL - Patients' rights advocates and other critics say Montreal's Notre-Dame hospital is partially to blame for a double murder and attempted murder in its psych ward.
A mental patient is suspected in the strangling deaths last week of two elderly patients and the choking of a third.
Idelson Guerrier, 31, is charged with attempted murder after staff caught a man choking a 71-year-old woman at the north-end hospital.
He's now being investigated after staff found the bodies of two other patients, aged 69 and 77.
Guerrier has a lengthy criminal record that includes convictions for armed assault, uttering death threats and criminal harassment.
Guerrier's rap sheet prompted patients' rights advocate Paul Brunet to question the hospital's security and diagnostics measures.
"This guy has a criminal record, a clear record of violence that seems to have gone below the radar completely," Brunet told QMI Agency on Thursday. "The assailant was misdiagnosed, poorly monitored or poorly guarded," he said, adding "that kind of stuff doesn't happen in a real psychiatric ward."
Dr. Yves Lamontagne, former head of the Quebec College of Physicians, defended hospital workers and said psychiatry is not an exact science.
"There's no blood test and there's no X-ray to look at," he said of the challenges of assessing the danger posed by a patient.
He stressed there was neither a security breach nor a lack of personnel during the attack.
"This is an isolated case. I'd like to remind that we offer a therapeutic environment, not a jail," added Yvan Gendron, associate director-general of the University of Montreal Hospital Centre.
But Dr.Lamontagne admitted that psych wards such as those at Notre-Dame hospital tend to be under-equipped, at least in Quebec.
"When there are cuts, it's psychiatry that's cut first," Lamontagne said.