St. Paul’s Hospital details discharge policy in wake of Richard Fernuk homicide

St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon says its discharge policy includes provisions for patients who may not have transportation home.

The details are part of a written response to questions from CBC News. The questions arose after the death of Richard Fernuk, a 68-year-old who was voluntarily discharged from the hospital on Aug. 2 and found dead in his apartment by police 36 hours later.

Fernuk’s family is questioning the circumstances of his release. He had a heart condition, a mental illness and had arrived at hospital by ambulance. He was discharged at 3:30 a.m. CST on a Friday before a long weekend.

According to the hospital, “our health care providers work diligently to ensure that patients being treated in our emergency department receive the highest quality of care possible.”

This includes ongoing consultations with medical staff prior to discharge.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority cannot discuss the specifics of an individual patient’s file. But, in general, the policy includes:

  • At any time, a patient may withdraw their consent for hospital admission, even against the physician’s orders or recommendations.
  •  It is important to know that people are free to leave at any time, we are not allowed to detain or hold a person against their will. The exception to this is when an assessment for mental capacity indicates they do not have the capacity to make informed decisions.
  • If a patient asks to be discharged early, the physician will advise the patient of the consequences and risks of leaving the hospital, given their health condition. Once that conversation occurs, if the patient continues to maintain that they are withdrawing their consent for admission, hospital staff ask the patient to sign a release form to indicate they understand the risks.
  • Hospital staff will also ask the patient if they have a family member or close friend they can call to support them, or if they need transportation from the hospital. Taxi vouchers are provided to those who need it.

Leo Roy Daniels is charged with first-degree murder, unlawful confinement and robbery in connection with Fernuk’s death. He’ll be back in court later this month.