Director who oversaw nursing home inspectors testifying at Wettlaufer inquiry

Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care inspectors who investigated the facilities where disgraced nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer killed residents are expected to testify at the public inquiry in St. Thomas this week. 

Karen Simpson, who until recently was the director of the long-term care inspections branch with the ministry, is the first to testify.

More than 25,000 documents make up this part of the long-term care inquiry, commission lawyer Megan Stephens said in her opening remarks Monday. 

"We've spent much time looking at the regulations that govern long-term care homes in the province."

Simpson's testimony is expected to detail the inspection regime at long-term care homes and how it has changed since 2010, when the Long Term Care Homes Act replaced the Nursing Homes Act. 

An overview of the long-term care sector in Ontario provided at the Wettlaufer inquiry. (Long Term Care Inquiry/Supplied)

Wettlaufer killed or harmed people under both regulatory regimes, as well as under the regulations that govern home care in the province. 

Long-term care facilities are expected to file critical-incident reports to the ministry whenever there are allegations of abuse, or if a resident is somehow put at risk. Each facility is also supposed to be inspected annually. 

Inspectors also go into nursing homes to ensure protocols are being followed. 

The inquiry will hear this week and next from several inspectors that investigated three long-term care facilities in Ontario after Wettlaufer's crimes came to light:

  • Caressant Care in Woodstock.
  • Meadow Park in London.
  • Telfer Place in Paris, where Wettlaufer worked as a temp agency nurse. 

Wettlaufer worked as a registered nurse in several long-term care facilities in southwestern Ontario. In 2016, she quit and checked herself into a mental health facility, where she confessed to doctors that she had killed eight residents since 2007. She also tried to kill six others. 

Nursing home didn't paint full picture

Last week, the inquiry heard from Anne Coghlan, head of the College of Nurses of Ontario. 

Wettlaufer was reported to the college, the regulatory body that governs nurses in the province, in 2014 by Caressant Care long-term care in Woodstock when she was fired for making a series of medication errors and being inappropriate.  

Wettlaufer worked at Caressant Care from 2007 to 2014 and it was unknown at the time that she had killed seven people there by injecting them with insulin overdoses. 

When long-term care facilities fire a nurse, they must report that termination to the college, along with the reasons for doing so. Those reasons are looked at by investigators, who might trigger an investigation or somehow censure the nurse. The final decision about what happens to the nurse rests with Coghlan. 

But Caressant Care management only reported a handful of incidents involving Wettlaufer. Those incidents were seen as "low risk" and didn't seem to follow a pattern.

As a result, Wettlaufer was sent a letter it had hoped would jar her into better behaviour.

​The inquiry into the safety and security of residents in long-term care began in June and is expected to last until September. 

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