Sexual assault of an elderly patient prompts review of mixed-gender rooms

A 48-year-old faces charges of sexual assault after an elderly woman was assaulted at Cowichan hospital. The alleged assaulter is scheduled to appear in Duncan court Feb. 14.

According to Cpl. Greg Pask of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP, identity of the suspect cannot be disclosed until charges are approved by the Crown.

The senior woman was a patient at the Cowichan hospital.

The senior woman suffering with dementia resided in a four-bed room with two men in the hospital, where she was assaulted.

“We’re shocked at this incident and we feel horrible,” said Dr. Elin Bjarnason. “All patients in mixed-gender rooms in VIHA (facilities) were reviewed. We’re not waiting to implement new (room) criteria — we’re doing it as of the day this happened. We need to be diligent to minimize mixed-gender rooms.”

According to Vancouver Island Health Authority, the tragic incident has raised demands for a comprehensive island-wide policy review of mixed-gender patient rooms.

In the wake of the incident, policies and procedures on mixed-gender rooms are now being formalized, says VIHA spokeswoman Moira McLean.

“It will also be required that patients in mixed-gender rooms are alert, oriented, mentally competent and have the ability to appropriately vocalize concerns.”

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