Policy and Political Action

Policy & Political Action

Tell the government that the Wettlaufer public inquiry must have a broad mandate

On June 26, 2017, former Ontario nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer – who murdered eight seniors in her care – was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years. On July 25, 2017, the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) found Wettlaufer guilty of professional misconduct and revoked her nursing license. Details of Wettlaufer’s employment history and previous interactions with CNO were revealed during the disciplinary hearing. These included being fired in 1995 for stealing lorazepam – an incident which CNO investigated and addressed – and being fired again in 2014 for medication errors.

Many questions remain unanswered. That is why a broad-based public inquiry into this case is of utmost importance. We must learn how this horrific tragedy happened, and see if there were any cracks in the system we can address to prevent it from ever happening again.

RNAO has been an active voice in urging the Government of Ontario to launch a full public inquiry, which was announced last month after Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder, and two counts of aggravated assault at two Ontario long-term care homes over a seven-year period. We are now waiting to hear the details of the inquiry’s scope.

As RNAO’s CEO Doris Grinspun indicated on July 25, 2017 in numerous media interviews, we are urging the government to ensure the inquiry has a wide scope. We need to get to the bottom of what happened, how it happened, and what we can learn from an organizational, regulatory, and system perspective. We want no stone left unturned in this effort.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, and Health Minister Eric Hoskins must set a broad scope for the public inquiry into this tragic case, for the sake of the eight Wettlaufer victims and their families, Ontarians in long-term care and across the entire health system, and the vast majority of nurses and other health professionals who work diligently to provide safe and quality care.

To be truly comprehensive, the public inquiry must be mandated to examine the following:

  • the actions of the long-term care homes with regards to serious staff discipline issues
  • the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s long-term care inspection process
  • the scope of the College of Nurses of Ontario’s ability to investigate and discipline its members
  • the Office of the Chief Coroner ‘s death reporting and review system
  • the Government of Ontario’s related policies, procedure, and practices, including funding model, staffing requirements, and governance of long-term care
  • the duty of third parties to report a concern that a nurse is not practicing safely
  • the duty of employers to disclose termination and issues with nursing practice safety as part of the reference process

We urge you to immediately sign this action alert, and urge others to do the same.

Copies will be sent to:

  • Patrick Brown, Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
  • Andrea Horwath, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Ontario
  • Ernie Hardeman, MPP for Oxford
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