The Nova Scotia government is considering tracking devices for patients at the East Coast Forensic Hospital in Dartmouth.

If it follows through with the plan, Nova Scotia would be the first province in Nova Scotia to implement some sort of tracking system for patients.

“If this is, in fact, in the best interest of safety in Nova Scotia, as well as an enabler of the work of the East Coast Forensic Centre,” says Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.

Glavine has been looking into the buddy system, a monitoring system used in the United Kingdom that involves ankle bracelets and GPS tracking that is monitored 24/7.

“It is certainly a concern to Nova Scotians with the frequency that patients have not returned to the East Coast Forensic Centre,” says Glavine.

According to the Capital District Health Authority, 42 patients have gone “absent without leave” in the last year.

Thirty-one of those patients were gone for 15 minutes to four hours while eight patients were missing for less than 16 hours. Three were missing overnight or for more than one day.

“I think I could understand why someone might see that number and be concerned, but out of the total amount of time and number of times that our patients access the community, it’s quite a relatively small number,” says Dr. Aileen Brunet, clinical director of the East Coast Forensic Hospital.

Brunet says the majority of AWOL cases are patients who returned late or those who were not where they were supposed to be.

In some cases, patients may have missed the bus, had time management issues, but some cases are deliberate.

“Our protocol is within 10 minutes of them not being back when they’re meant to be, we initiate notification of police and administration,” says Brunet.

There have been some changes around monitoring patients as a result of recommendations from a report released by independent experts in forensic psychiatry following the death of Raymond Taavel in April 2012.

Andre Noel Denny is charged with second-degree murder in Taavel’s death. He was on a one-hour pass from the forensic hospital at the time of the alleged incident.

The report, however, did not recommend using GPS tracking devices.

Glavine says he likes the idea of a pilot program, but admits it’s too early to say what direction government may take.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Jackie Foster