Provincial health official grilled on handling of Wettlaufer case

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

An official with the South West Local Health Integration Network says it believed it was up to Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s employer to alert the Ontario College of Nurses to a police investigation into her actions.

Steven Carswell, LHIN’s director of quality, was on the hot seat Thursday at the public inquiry into long-term care homes, where he was grilled by Paul Scott — a lawyer representing the last person Wettlaufer tried to murder, Beverly Bertram.

READ MORE: College of Nurses of Ontario says it didn’t receive enough information from Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s former employers

Scott asked Carswell why the LHIN never contacted the College of Nurses about the case.

“It would be our practice that as the employer, Saint Elizabeth should be referring to the College of Nurses,” Carswell said.

“Do you believe you have the right to contact the College of Nurses, though?” Scott asked.

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“Yes, I believe we have the right to contact, yeah,” Carswell replied.

“Do you think here today that might be a good idea to contact the College of Nurses in a situation like this?”

“Our practice would be to encourage that the employer be the one to make that report to the College,” Carswell answered. “But I would say, if we are feeling like the organization is unwilling to do that or has not done that, we would take on that role and have done that in the past.”

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Carswell said the LHIN didn’t contact the Ontario College of Nurses after police began investigating Wettlaufer because the provincial health agency believed that was the responsibility of her employer, Saint Elizabeth Health Care.

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Soon after Wettlaufer confessed to a psychiatrist, Woodstock Police contacted Saint Elizabeth Health Care as part of their investigation.

Representatives from Saint Elizabeth and the LHIN’s Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) met on Oct. 21, 2016, and the CCAC asked that Saint Elizabeth go back to look at any issues it may have previously missed with any clients who had been cared for by Wettlaufer.

At the time, the LHIN expected that Saint Elizabeth would contact the Ontario College of Nurses to let it know about the investigation into Wettlaufer.

READ MORE: Saint Elizabeth HR didn’t contact references when hiring Elizabeth Wettlaufer, inquiry hears

Over the course of almost 10 years, Wettlaufer murdered eight patients and attempted to kill four others. Last year she pleaded guilty to several crimes, including the murders, and received a life sentence.

Wettlaufer quit Saint Elizabeth soon after trying to kill then-68-year-old Bertram with an overdose of insulin at the client’s Ingersoll home. She later told police she quit because she was asked to work with diabetic kids and she didn’t trust herself not to harm them.

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