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September 27, 2021

How Lismore Hospital failed suicidal father and son-in-law

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A Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) investigation is underway into Lismore Base Hospital’s adult mental health unit following the suicide of a man it turned away and the attempted suicide of another.

If you need support contact beyondblue or phone Lifeline on 131114.

North coast horse trainer Danny Bowen hanged himself just weeks after being turned away from the unit last year.

His son-in-law Adrian Warwick was subsequently admitted but released a few hours later despite having attempted suicide three times in a single day.

Now Brooke Bowen – Mr Bowen’s daughter and Mr Warwick’s partner – hopes she will at last have some answers.

On May 28 last year, family members took Mr Bowen to the hospital after he told them he had been suffering from suicidal thoughts.

But he was turned away, with the hospital saying no beds were available, and was told he would be admitted when one came up.

A NSW Health internal investigation has failed to establish whether further attempts were made to find a bed for Mr Bowen.

Three weeks later, on June 19, he was found dead in his home.

Ms Bowen said her father ‘begged and pleaded’ for help from hospital staff but that it didn’t appear that even basic checks on his medications had been undertaken or attempts made to contact his GP or psychiatrist.

Some weeks later Mr Warwick, who was suffering depression after the murder of his daughter, toddler Tanilla Warwick-Deaves, was discharged from hospital and allowed to walk home despite his suicidal condition.

Ms Bowen said that in her partner’s case the trauma of losing his daughter had been ‘retriggered’ by the court case into her murder.

‘He was close to dad, and dad was very close to him and helped him through his daughter’s murder,’ she told ABC radio this morning. ‘And when dad died Adrian needed help again.’

Ms Bowen said that in an effort to get Lismore Base Hospital to admit their partner they asked the local police to ‘schedule’ him.

But despite this, he was let out just hours later.

‘In the end, he was that bad he had to go in there for a month [just] before his daughter’s mother was sentenced. He missed all that because he wasn’t properly diagnosed. To this day they can’t tell me what he was diagnosed with but they were treating him “for an illness”,’ she said.

‘I cannot believe that my father, his end result was suicide. And then my partner, three hours after he had tried to harm himself three times, not only did they send him home – they allowed him to walk home. And they did not even contact me,’ she added.

Ms Bowen said she believes there is a systemic failure at the hospital and that admitting doctors are ‘not following protocol’.

‘It’s still happening after dad. Adrian isn’t the only one that’s been turned away. I can tell you heaps of cases of people who reached out to us, who’ve been in the same position – who’ve been sent home. It’s not right,’ she said.

‘It takes a lot for a man to reach out. There’s a lot of men out there who need help. They shouldn’t just be turning these people away,’ she told ABC.

The executive director of drugs and alcohol for the Northern NSW Local Health District has said that given the matter is listed for review by the coroner and being investigated by the HCCC ‘it would be inappropriate for the health district to comment on either matter at this time’.

If you need support contact beyondblue or phone Lifeline on 131114.

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