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Elizabeth Wettlaufer case prompts calls for public inquiry into long-term care home conditions

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted from the Provincial courthouse in Woodstock, Ont., on Thursday, June 1, 2017.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted from the Provincial courthouse in Woodstock, Ont., on Thursday, June 1, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Power

There are growing calls for a public inquiry into the conditions at Canada’s long-term care homes following Thursday’s revelations in the Elizabeth Wettlaufer case.

After pleading guilty to all 14 charges against her, including eight counts of first-degree murder, the former nurse explained in graphic detail through the agreed statement of facts how she was able to get away with multiple murders inside the facilities where she worked.

READ MORE: Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleads guilty to all charges in killing of 8 seniors

Wettlaufer admitted to feeling “an urge to kill” amid growing frustrations with her job and life, an urge that would only diminish after she overdosed her victims with insulin.

Often working nights with little supervision, Wettlaufer knew “if your blood sugar goes low enough, you can die” and refrained from logging her use of insulin in order to avoid detection.

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Click to play video: 'Extended: Elizabeth Wettlaufer video confession to seniors killings' Extended: Elizabeth Wettlaufer video confession to seniors killings
Extended: Elizabeth Wettlaufer video confession to seniors killings – Jun 1, 2017

WATCH ABOVE: Key moments from Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s video confession. The video was released in a Woodstock, Ont., court Thursday

Canada’s largest advocacy group for older Canadians, CARP, is calling for a public inquiry into what it calls “the abuse, neglect and untimely deaths of long-term care residents in the country.”

Vice-president of advocacy, Wanda Morris, said the problem is bigger than one person.

“Hardly a day goes by when we don’t hear of issues,” said Morris. “People, for example, being left in their diapers and not toileted regularly or people being put in diapers in the first place because there’s not enough staff to get to them on a regular basis.”

READ MORE: Elizabeth Wettlaufer a rare kind of Canadian killer: criminologist

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Morris said an inquiry can look at a full scope of remedies including cameras in rooms, increased staff and potentially moving away from private funding.

“If there’s, you know it’s hard to say, but a silver lining from these murders, it is that they are bringing the public’s attention to this horrible issue and hopefully we can channel that attention and bring it to examining and then resolving some of these issues that are so widespread.”

Susan Horvath, whose father was killed in 2014, issued a similar call to action on Thursday to Ontario’s minister of health and long-term care.

“I hope Dr. Eric Hoskins has 30 seconds on his schedule to do something for the nursing homes because he is the one who has promised continuously that he will change policies,” she said.

Horvath said she could not forgive the former nurse and called for better oversight at the province’s long-term care facilities.

“I don’t want my dad’s death, and everybody’s death, to just be wasted,” she said. “Let’s make a change.”

Click to play video: 'Daughter of Wettlaufer victim pleads for policy changes to retirement homes' Daughter of Wettlaufer victim pleads for policy changes to retirement homes
Daughter of Wettlaufer victim pleads for policy changes to retirement homes – Jun 1, 2017

WATCH ABOVE: Daughter of Wettlaufer victim, Susan Horvath, pleads for policy changes to retirement homes

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is also calling for a public inquiry into the deaths of Wettlaufer’s victims.

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“We need to get to the bottom of what happened, how it happened and what we can learn from an organizational, regulatory and system perspective to ensure nothing like this ever happens again,” Doris Grinspun, RNAO CEO, and the group’s president, Carol Timmings, said in a statement. “We want no stone unturned in this effort.”

Records from the College of Nurses of Ontario show Wettlaufer was first registered as a nurse in August 1995 but resigned Sept. 30, 2016, and is no longer a registered nurse. She also faces a disciplinary hearing with the college, court heard.

READ MORE: Timeline of events in case of former Ontario nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer

Health Minister Eric Hoskins says the government is open to looking into the deaths, but he refused to comment further because the case is still before the courts.

Last October, Hoskins argued Ontario already has a robust system of inspections and oversight in place.

Click to play video: 'Ontario’s long-term care homes safe: government' Ontario’s long-term care homes safe: government
Ontario’s long-term care homes safe: government – Oct 26, 2016

WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins says the province’s long-term care homes are among the safest in the world. The statements come a day after police laid criminal charges against a Woodstock nurse they say is responsible for the deaths of eight patients. Sean O’Shea reports.

After Wettlaufer was initially charged with murder, Premier Kathleen Wynne said she was open to conducting an independent review but no commitment has been made as of yet.

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Wettlaufer will be back in court June 26 and 27 for victim impact statements and sentencing. She’s expected to receive a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

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