Hospital failed woman before 2014 death

Fremantle Hospital.
Fremantle Hospital.

A CORONER has urged public hospitals in Western Australia to focus on treating mental health emergencies as seriously as any other medical crisis after a depressed cartoonist’s repeated cries for help fell on deaf ears.

Melanie Tregonning, 31, sought aid from several health professionals in the 48 hours before she took her own life in her Willetton studio in May 2014.

“Despite her cries for help escalating, she was ultimately sent home from Fremantle Hospital without appropriate psychiatric assessment … despite being taken there by ambulance on her GP’s referral,” coroner Sarah Linton said in inquest findings on Friday.

The talented illustrator was first published at age 16 and her last work was a graphic novel called Small Things, which told the story of a little boy who felt worried and alone but learnt that help was always close by.

“Sadly for Ms Tregonning, when she needed help most, she did not receive it,” Ms Linton said.

Fremantle Hospital’s emergency department closed in February 2015, when care was transferred to Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Evidence indicated the new hospital faced the same types of problems that arose in Ms Tregonning’s case including miscommunications, Ms Linton said.

She urged Health Minister Roger Cook to prioritise commissioning a mental health observation area at Fiona Stanley Hospital emergency department.

“In a more general sense, I urge those reviewing the mental health service provided at public hospitals to focus on ways of ensuring mental health emergencies are treated as seriously as any other medical emergency.”

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