by Eric Andrew-Gee, The Globe and Mail, 25 October 2016
Mr Andrew-Gee reports on the case of a nurse who is accused of murdering eight residents of nursing homes, aged 75 to 96, between 2007 and 2014. The case has raised questions about regulatory oversight of aged care facilities.
News of the allegations prompted mourning and debate in Ontario’s legislature on Tuesday, with opposition parties asking the Liberal government how this could have happened in provincially regulated facilities.
Teresa Armstrong, a New Democrat who represents the London area, asked Premier Kathleen Wynne how such things could happen under the oversight of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
“How do [alleged] murders go undetected for nearly 10 years inside any long-term-care home in Ontario?” Ms. Armstrong said.
Ms. Wynne, along with her health minister and attorney-general, refused to answer direct questions on the matter, citing the police investigation.
“This is an extremely distressing and tragic, tragic thing for all of the families involved,” she said.
The coroner’s office used to conduct mandatory investigations of every 10th death at a nursing home, but dropped that practice in 2013, in part because the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care fortified its oversight of nursing homes a few years earlier.
Since the coroner’s office changed its policy in 2013, it has probed far fewer nursing-home deaths. The office conducted 2,027 investigations in long-term-care facilities in 2013. The number plunged to 890 in 2014 and 884 in 2015. (Ms. Mahyr would not say if a coroner investigated any of the eight deaths in this case, citing the police investigation.)
Nursing homes in Ontario are also required to report critical incidents to the ministry. An unexpected or sudden death counts as a critical incident that has to be communicated to the ministry immediately. None of the publicly available critical-incident inspection reports for Caressant Care Woodstock and Meadow Park in London dating back to 2010 mentioned sudden or unexpected deaths.
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