12/20/2011 01:54 EST | Updated 02/19/2012 05:12 EST

Alberta Hospital told to improve search plan after death

A judge has recommended that Edmonton's Alberta Hospital improve its search plan after 68-year-old Lorraine Adolph froze to death three years ago.

Adolph walked out of the hospital on Dec. 4, 2008, to smoke a cigarette but failed to return. Her frozen body was found seven days later beside an abandoned building on the hospital grounds.

Adolph, who had schizophrenia, had wandered away from a hospital in Stony Plain, Alta., and was sent to Alberta Hospital because of its onsite security.

In a fatality inquiry report, provincial court Judge Ferne LeReverend suggested the hospital appoint one person per shift to be a search leader in charge of all aspects of search and return.

The leader would also be in charge of appointing and training a search team, ensuring the proper equipment, including snowmobiles or ATVs, is available.

The inquiry had heard that security guards sent to find Adolph didn't have winter boots and were unwilling to walk through five centimetres of snow to search around buildings.

The leader would be tasked with calling police or other agencies if the patient is not returned to the unit within a reasonable period of time, keeping in mind weather conditions and the patient's mental health, LeReverend wrote.

The search leader would also conduct sufficient drills to ensure a timely and thorough search of the grounds.

LeReverend also recommended a secure outdoor area be made available for patients who wish to smoke.