Health Ministry inspections couldn't have stopped serial killer, Wettlaufer inquiry hears

An Ontario Health Ministry inspector who makes sure nursing homes are safe for residents doesn't think the provincial inspection process could have prevented the "evil" that serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer brought into long-term care homes, an inquiry heard Wednesday. 

It could have happened anywhere, in any home,” Rhonda Kukoly testified at the long-term care inquiry at the Elgin County courthouse in St. Thomas. 

"I can't think of anything that's going to be able to detect if someone is so evil and devious to intentionally harm residents — and conceal their actions to that degree."

Kukoly spent five months at Caressant Care in Woodstock after Wettlaufer confessed to killing seven residents by injecting them with insulin while working at the home from 2007 to 2014. 

Wettlaufer was not caught and went on to kill another resident at her next job, at Meadow Park nursing home in London. She also harmed others at both homes and while working as a temp agency nurse in southwestern Ontario. In June 2017, Wettlaufer was sentenced to eight concurrent life terms in prison with no parole possibility for 25 years.

The inquiry has heard that it’s unlikely Wettlaufer would have been stopped had it not been for her own confession to a psychiatrist in 2016. 

But Kukoly said Wettlaufer's crimes have shaken the long-term care industry to its core. 

"That trust in long-term care and nursing has been absolutely battered. I am a nurse and I always wanted to be, whether I'm in a home as an inspector or a nurse, I bring the same level of care and reasonability. The impact on this sector will be vast." 

Impact 'unimaginable'

Kukoly said she lies awake at night thinking of the pain the family members of Wettlaufer's victims must be going through. 

"I close my eyes and I think about it. It's unimaginable."

Earlier Wednesday, Kukoly detailed going into Caressant Care just 24 hours after staff learned former co-worker Wettlaufer had confessed to serial murder. 

She also went through the five months of intense scruitny placed on Caressant Care by provincial Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care inspectors, leading to a stop-admission order and the home being ordered to hire an outside company to manage it. That mandatory management order remains in place. 

On Thursday Kukoly is expected to be cross-examined by lawyers representing different groups with standing at the inquiry. 

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

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