Ontario nursing home at centre of murder probe ordered to stop new admissions

Admissions halted at nursing home in Wettlaufer case

An Ontario long-term care home where a former nurse is accused of killing seven seniors has been ordered by the province to temporarily stop admitting new patients.

The directive concerning the Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock, Ont., states that the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care has concerns about the safety of current or future residents, but does not elaborate on the nature of the concerns.

The letter, sent Wednesday to the chief executive of the Community Care Access Centre for southwest Ontario, made no mention of the recent murder charges laid against a nurse who worked at the facility for several years.

In a statement released Friday evening, Ontario’s health minister said concerns about the home “relate to incidents that occurred since August 2016 and do not involve any issues that the police have been asked to investigate.”

Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a former Caressant Care nurse, is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder, seven of which involve former residents of the home. Two of the four attempted murder charges she also faces also concern Caressant residents, as well as a pair of aggravated assault charges against elderly sisters who lived there.

The directive sent to Caressant Care, posted on a government database, refers only in vague terms to concerns about the Woodstock home.

“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,” wrote Karen Simpson, the director of the Long-Term Care Inspections Branch for the ministry.

A spokesman for Caressant Care said the halt on new admissions has gone into effect.

Lee Griffi said the home had been the subject of “intensive” ministry inspections for the past 90 days and said it had been ordered to “improve certain practices.” He did not provide details as to the nature of the improvements, and the Ministry of Health would only say that the home did not meet standards laid out in the Long-Term Care Homes Act.

“During recent Ministry inspections at Caressant Care Home in Woodstock, it became apparent that there were compliance issues. As a result, the Ministry ordered a cease of admission â€” effective Thursday, January 26, 2017 â€” to ensure these unresolved issues are addressed quickly,” Health Minister Eric Hoskins said Friday in a statement.

“The long-term care home licensee is required to identify the steps it has taken or will take to address the compliance concerns. We also expect the licensee to meet with members of the home’s residents’ council and family council.”

A report on the ministry’s website, meanwhile, outlines concerns that arose at the home in October of last year.

The 32-page document outlines a number of issues, including allegations of unspecified staff abuse and neglect towards a resident.

Other issues raised included assertions that the home failed to act on or properly document incidents in which one resident was said to be abusing another, multiple occasions in which staff were not on hand to assist residents with their meals, and failure to report suspected abuse to the home’s director.

The report also indicates that the home had a history of citations over the previous three years.

Griffi did not respond to a request for comment on the October report, but said the halt on admissions will allow Caressant Care to focus on addressing the ministry’s concerns.

The home has hired an external consultant to help with the changes, he added.

“We are confident that these actions enable us to better provide for the physical, social and spiritual needs of our residents,” he said in a statement.

Caressant Care owns 15 long-term care homes in Ontario, but the Woodstock facility is the only one affected by the orders, Griffi said.

The timing of the inspections at the Woodstock home coincides roughly with Wettlaufer’s arrest.

Police launched an investigation in late September after becoming aware of information the 49-year-old former nurse had given to a psychiatric hospital in Toronto that caused them concern, a police source has told The Canadian Press.

In October, Wettlaufer was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of residents at nursing homes in Woodstock and London, Ont. Police alleged Wettlaufer used drugs to kill the seniors while she worked at the facilities between 2007 and 2014.

Earlier this month, police laid additional attempted murder and aggravated assault charges and exhumed two bodies as part of their ongoing investigation.

The allegations against Wettlaufer have not been proven in court.

The next court hearing in her case is set for Feb. 15.

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Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Canadian Press