August 3, 2019
August 3, 2019 6:00 PM EDT
Nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer killed her patients with overdoses of insulin. POSTMEDIA
The most frightening thing about nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s nine-year killing spree — mainly at the Caressant Care nursing home in Woodstock — is that if she hadn’t confessed, she might still be doing it.
That’s the most alarming finding from Justice Eileen Gillese’s two-year, four-volume inquiry into Wettlaufer’s trail of murder, released Wednesday, which made 91 recommendations to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
It’s the same conclusion Justice Bruce Thomas reached at her 2017 criminal trial.
Justice Gillese attributed the lack of detection to systemic failures in Ontario’s long-term health care system.
As a result, it was only because Wettlaufer confessed and pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault between 2007 and 2016, that she’s now behind bars for life with no chance of parole for 25 years.
While Wettlaufer — who killed her elderly patients by overdosing them with insulin — is Canada’s first known serial killer in health care, what’s unknown is whether she’s the only one.
“It appears that no one in the long-term care system conceived of the possibility that a health care provider might intentionally harm those within their care and, consequently, no one looked for this or took steps to guard against it,” Justice Gillese found.
She said health care providers must now act on the assumption there could be more serial killers in health care.
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A glaring omission in the judge’s otherwise exhaustive report is the role that Wettlaufer’s union may have played by defending her when nursing homes were firing her for administering the wrong medications, unaware she was deliberately killing patients.
Because of that, Wettlaufer was allowed to resign and given letters of recommendation for future employers.
Justice Gillese was silent on this given that it wasn’t in her terms of reference set by the previous Liberal Ontario government that presided over health care for all nine years where Wettlaufer was killing patients.
Judge Gillese’s recommendations are sound but mainly involve providing more provincial funding to nursing homes to hire more qualified and permanent staff, and to develop better ways to store and track medications.
Those priorities will now have to compete for funding in an already cash-strapped health care system, the most expensive government file by far, in a province where the previous Liberal government buried us in debt.
Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton said the government will provide new money to fulfill the judge’s key recommendations, meaning the funds will have to be found elsewhere in the health care system.
That’s the dilemma Premier Doug Ford and the Progressive Conservatives face.
They have to safeguard patients in long-term care facilities that the previous government failed to do, while drowning us in debt.
That’s one of the prices we’re now paying for years of reckless Liberal spending.