College of Nurses of Ontario sees increase in employer reporting amid Wettlaufer inquiry

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted by police from the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont, Monday, June 26, 2017. Dave Chidley / The Canadian Press

The executive director and registrar for the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) said the college has received an increase in reporting from health care employers since the Elizabeth Wettlaufer case broke two years ago.

Anne Coghlan testified on Tuesday during the Long-Term Care Homes Public Inquiry, an inquiry aiming to learn how the crimes of a former nurse went undetected.

“In 2018, the average number of reports that we’re receiving on a weekly basis has almost doubled [the weekly average] that we received in 2017.”

Coghlan added that she believes the “increased attention the inquiry has placed on the healthcare sector” is responsible for the spark in reporting.

Coghlan also noted the CNO has seen an increased budget over the past two years, which she attributes to an increased workload.

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Further questioning heard Coghlan being asked if reports of a breach of standards are always prosecuted as acts of professional misconduct.

“The reality is that there are gaps in practice all the time,” replied the CNO’s executive director and registrar.

“In the vast majority of circumstances, nurses who demonstrate insight, have a willingness to review standards and improve their practice are conducive to a regulatory action that is remedial.”

Hearings for the ongoing inquiry are expected to last until late September.

The probe was launched in response to the crimes of Wettlaufer, who was able to kill eight seniors in her care and attempt to kill four others over a 10-year span without being detected.

Wettlaufer’s crimes only came to light when she confessed them to mental health workers and police.

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