Elizabeth Wettlaufer: Province suspends admissions at Caressant Care in Woodstock where ex-nurse faces murder and attempted murder charges
A woman walks into the Caressant Care facility in Woodstock, Ont. on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley)
Caressant Care in Woodstock won’t be allowed to accept new residents until all of the nursing home’s practices meet provincial standards.
The suspension order, slapped on the home by the province Thursday, is only laid for very serious or chronic-care problems, one advocate said.
“A suspension of admissions is one of the harshest things that can happen. It’s showing that there are very serious issues in that home,” said Jane Meadus of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.
“It’s not that it never happens, but it only happens when the Ministry (of Health and Long-Term Care) has identified something of critical importance where the home has not been able to resolve it quickly.”
Elizabeth Wettlaufer, the Woodstock nurse accused of killing residents in several southwestern Ontario nursing homes, arrives at court in Woodstock. (MORRIS LAMONT, The London Free Press)
Inspection reports from Caressant Care show a persistent problem of abuse between residents and staff, as well as between residents, from the summer and fall of 2016.
The ministry directive to cease admissions noted that the suspension was ordered because of potential safety concerns for Caressant Care residents.
“The ceasing of admissions has been directed based on my belief that there is a risk of harm to the health or well-being of residents in the home or persons who might be admitted as residents,” says the directive dated Jan. 25 from Karen Simpson, who heads inspections of Ontario long-term care homes.
The directive doesn’t specifically outline why Simpson believes residents might be at risk of harm.
The ministry confirmed in an emailed statement that “the compliance concerns relate to incidents that occurred since August 2016 and do not involve any issues that the police have been asked to investigate.”
Caressant Care spokesperson Lee Griffi pointed to “intense inspections” over the last few months, almost three months to the day after former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer — who had worked at the home — was first charged with eight counts of first-degree murder.
“I can confirm that as a result of intense inspections over the last 90 days by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, our home has been issued orders to improve certain practices. In addition, a temporary halt in new admissions enables us to focus on addressing the ministry’s concerns on an urgent basis,” Griffi said in an emailed statement.
But the question remains, if it’s not safe for new seniors to move into the home, what about those already there?
“It is a big concern,” said Meadus. “I would certainly want to see a very heavy oversight by the ministry,” she added, noting there could very well be a provincial inspector there daily.
Some Woodstock residents say the clampdown on admissions until standards improve underlines why they wouldn’t want loved ones in the home.
Amy-Lynn Fitzsimmons, a personal support worker whose family members have lived in Caressant Care, and with one relative who still does, said she’s been asked to work for the company, but declined because of her concern about overall responsiveness to patient care.
“I won’t. I refuse to,” she said, but added she has seen some staff there go above and beyond.
Lack of resources for long-term care is a province-wide issue, said Murray Studer, who lives beside the home and visits his mother there often.
He said he hopes recent events will make a difference at Queen’s Park.
“The only thing I’m hoping comes out of this is that the government and the people that do the funding for the nursing homes, not just Caressant Care but all of them, take this really to heart. This isn’t just happening in Woodstock,” he said. “So many people are falling through the cracks.”