Could a public inquiry prevent more nursing home murders?
Advocates for elderly nursing home residents say the case of Ontario nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, who pleaded guilty Thursday to murdering eight of her elderly patients and trying to kill four others, must be addressed with a public inquiry.
A courtroom in Woodstock, Ont., in the southwestern part of the province, heard graphic details today about how Wettlaufer used lethal injections of insulin to kill the people in her care. She confessed to the murders in a taped interview with police last fall.
“It makes it so clear that these vulnerable people faced evil,” said Wanda Morris, vice-president of advocacy for the Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP) in an interview with CBC News. “And I’m hoping that the sheer horror of it will result in some further action.”
Her group is calling for is a public inquiry, either at the provincial or federal level.
Morris said while there are many good nursing homes operating across Canada, abuse happens far too regularly. The scrutiny of an inquiry is needed to examine how long-term care homes deal with abuse and unexpected deaths, she said.
“This was extreme,” said Morris. “But there isn’t a week that goes by where we don’t hear about neglect, abuse, or just simply disinterest so that our most frail elderly are left without protections in a facility that is meant to care and protect them.”
Fired from nursing home
Wettlaufer’s guilty pleas draw part of the story to a close, but questions persist about how her actions went undetected and how to prevent something like this from happening again.
The nurse’s actions only came to the attention of police when Wettlaufer told people at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto what she had done. CAMH staff contacted the police in September.
Details that have emerged in and outside of court suggest that red flags were raised much earlier, including a concerning pattern of behaviour at her workplaces.
Wettlaufer was employed by Caressant Care for seven years before she was fired in March of 2014. She was terminated because of a “serious” incident where she gave the wrong medication to a patient.
It wasn’t the first mistake. According to police records, she had an “extensive disciplinary record” for medication-related errors, was suspended numerous times and given multiple warnings.
In her termination letter, Wettlaufer’s boss said her behaviour put residents at risk.
Seven of the deaths occurred at Caressant Care.
Despite her problematic employment record from Caressant Care, Wettlaufer maintained her nursing licence and continued to find work through various staffing agencies. She was working in a London facility in 2014 when the last of the eight patients died.
SOURCE: Meagan Fitzpatrick