Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

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RNAO to highlight systemic issues in long-term care during Wettlaufer inquiry

2018-01-18

TORONTO, Jan. 18, 2018 – When the broad-based, provincial public inquiry takes a hard look at Ontario's long-term care sector this June, the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) will be there to ensure no stone is left unturned.

RNAO was granted standing in the Long-Term Care Homes Public Inquiry, which will examine the circumstances surrounding the murders of eight nursing home residents by former RN Elizabeth Wettlaufer. Led by Justice Eileen Gillese, the inquiry will look at the specifics of the murders – which occurred between 2007 and 2014 at three southwestern Ontario nursing homes – as well as the systemic issues that may have contributed to this tragic situation.

"Regrettably, we can't bring back the lives we lost in this horrific tragedy. However, the inquiry must honour their memory by getting to the bottom of what happened," says RNAO President Carol Timmings, adding that RNAO was the first organization to call for a public inquiry when news broke about Wettlaufer. "It is vital to fully understand where things went wrong in the system, and also to expose the shortcomings in Ontario's long-term care sector. This is the only way we can make broad and sustained positive changes that will protect the health and safety of all nursing home residents."

With standing at the inquiry, RNAO will be able to present evidence and call witnesses. The association will use this opportunity to highlight flaws in the investigatory, disciplinary and reference check processes used by long-term care homes. This includes the College of Nurses of Ontario's (CNO) ability to investigate and discipline its members – registered nurses (RN), nurse practitioners (NP) and registered practical nurses (RPN) – and whether third parties have a duty to report concerns when a nurse is not practising safely. RNAO also wants to see employers mandated to disclose termination notices and any issues related to patient safety to prospective employers during reference checks.

“Our hearts continue to be with the family members of each victim. They need answers, and Ontarians need to know they can trust nursing homes and the health professionals caring for their loved ones,” says Timmings. “We want the public to know that the overwhelming majority of nurses go to work with the intention of providing safe and quality care to nursing home residents. However, many do so under extremely challenging staffing conditions.”

Looking more broadly at the long-term care sector, RNAO will show how current funding and staffing models are harming quality of care and resident safety in Ontario’s nursing homes. RNAO CEO Doris Grinspun says nursing homes are consistently understaffed, especially when it comes to regulated staff: NPs, RNs, and RPNs. “Ontario’s seniors living in nursing homes are being shortchanged by archaic funding models that don’t fit today’s reality. Now, more than 50 percent of long-term care residents are 85 years of age or older and 90 percent of all residents have cognitive impairments,” Grinspun highlights. Moreover, she says “...current models of government funding are actually unintentionally penalizing nursing homes when they improve the health outcomes of their residents."

Grinspun hopes these issues and others will be addressed when Justice Gillese makes her recommendations following the inquiry. "Let this inquiry be a turning point for residents in nursing homes," she says. "From here on, we must give older Ontarians the respect they deserve by investing in a strong and accountable long-term care sector to help them age safely and with dignity."

RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the healthcare system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit RNAO.ca or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

To arrange an interview, please contact:

Daniel Punch
Communications Officer/Writer
Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)
416-408-5605
dpunch@RNAO.ca