Deaths of Wettlaufer’s victims weren’t flagged for provincial inspection: probe

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted from the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont., on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted from the courthouse in Woodstock, Ont., on Friday, Jan. 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley

The public inquiry into long-term care is putting the province in the spotlight.

The probe underway in St. Thomas, sparked by the crimes of convicted killer nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, questioned the former head of the Ministry of Long Term Care’s inspections branch Monday.

Karen Simpson told the inquiry the department was not flagged regarding the deaths of Maurice Grenat and James Silcox, who were killed by Wettlaufer at Caressant Care Home in 2007.

READ MORE: College of Nurses of Ontario knew Elizabeth Wettlaufer was an alcoholic since 1995: Caressant Care lawyer

At the time, the sector was governed by rules laid out in the Nursing Homes Act, which required unusual accidental deaths and suicides to be reported to the ministry. It also required reviews to be done by “compliance advisors,” explained Simpson.

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“My understanding was that it was primarily a documentation-based review. They would talk to staff. There was not as much discussion with residents.”

Simpson said homes would be reviewed against a program standard manual. Compliance advisors would write a report, issue unmet standards and criteria, and list their observations.

“There weren’t compliance orders, as we have today,” she said.

READ MORE: Former colleague says she walked in on Wettlaufer telling resident ‘it was okay to let go’

In July 2010, the Nursing Homes Act was changed to the Long Term Care Act. One of the big changes was that residents would be formally interviewed during reviews, Simpson explained.

“When I look at what’s in our regulation today, we have a lot more detail, a lot more prescription around what homes are required to do.”

Simpson was also asked about two different medication incidents involving Wettlaufer, and why a single missing pill in March 2013 went uninvestigated but a large number of missing pills in October 2014 was investigated.

“There was a signicant amount of medication that went missing,” explained Simpson.

“They didn’t seem to know where it had gone, so there was clearly risk associated with that, as opposed to the other situation where it was one capsule.”

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READ MORE: Elizabeth Wettlaufer public inquiry pits nurses’ union against Caressant Care

Simpson said it was possible that the single missing capsule had fallen in the drug cart, and said the inspections branch determined the home was doing enough to remedy the situation. In the October 2014 case, she said there was suspicion that Wettlaufer had taken the drugs herself.

Wettlaufer handed in her resignation from Meadow Park around the same time, and disclosed to the facility’s director of care that she’d overdosed and had problems with drugs and alcohol.

The inquiry, tasked with reviewing how Wettlaufer was able to get away with murdering and hurting patients for 10 years, will continue Tuesday with inspectors from the Ministry of Long Term Care.

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