Conflicting accounts over whether Wettlaufer was on a 'do not hire' list under maiden name, inquiry hears

A public inquiry looking into how Elizabeth Wettlaufer was able to kill eight elderly patients in her care heard conflicting accounts Thursday about whether the ex-nurse was on a "do not hire" list used by one of Canada's largest nursing home owners early in her career.

Killer nurse confessed to killing 8 patients in her care and trying to kill or injure 6 others

At a public inquiry into long-term care homes, testimony revealed one of Elizabeth Wettlaufer's colleagues once called her 'an Angel of Death.' 1:52

A public inquiry looking into how Elizabeth Wettlaufer was able to kill eight elderly patients in her care heard conflicting accounts Thursday about whether the ex-nurse was on a "do not hire" list used by one of Canada's largest nursing home owners early in her career.

The shocking revelation came during testimony from Heidi Wilmot-Smith, the owner of Lifeguard Carehome, an agency that provides nurses for long-term care facilities on a temporary basis. She hired Wettlaufer to work for Lifeguard, which placed her at Telfer Place in Paris, Ont., where she tried to kill a resident.

Wettlaufer was working at a Revera facility in 2016, the same year she confessed to killing eight patients and trying to harm or kill six others.

Wilmot-Smith said when police were investigating Wettlaufer's crimes in October 2016, she got a call from a Revera vice-president. 

"She told me they're doing a criminal investigation, that it relates to Bethe Wettlaufer, and I was quite stunned by that," Wilmot-Smith said. 

"She indicated to me that Bethe had worked for them under the surname Parker, and that she was on their 'do not hire' list as Parker. She indicated that's why they didn't catch it, because she was [now] practising under the surname Wettlaufer." 

Heidi Wilmot-Smith, owner of Lifeguard HomeCare, hired Elizabeth Wettlaufer to work in nursing homes throughout southwestern Ontario. (Kate Dubinski/CBC )

Parker was Wettlaufer's maiden name.

A lawyer for Revera, Jennifer McAleer, challenged Wilmot-Smith's recollection of the phone conversation. 

"I'm going to suggest to you that your memory is inaccurate," McAleer said.

"I'm telling you what I remember. I wouldn't have come up with that on my own," Wilmot-Smith shot back. 

The exchange between McAleer and Wilton-Smith became testy and heated. So much so, the inquiry was interrupted for a few moments to let tempers cool.

It was then pointed out to Wilton-Smith that the Beth Parker supposedly on Revera's 'do not call' list was actually a woman from Alberta, not Bethe Wettlaufer.

Costs over patients

There were several problems with Wettlaufer when she worked at Telfer Place, the inquiry heard.

On one occasion, she didn't show up for a shift, leaving the nursing home scrambling to replace her. As a registered nurse, Wettlaufer was needed to fulfil Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care requirements to have one RN on duty at all times. 

Another time, she called in 30 minutes prior to the start of a night shift, again leaving the home and her employer in the lurch. 

She told a Lifeguard administrator that she was a recovering alcoholic but that she was drinking again. She also assured her employer that she was not drinking on the job. 

McAleer suggested Wilmot-Smith should have told Revera about the alcoholism, but Wilmot-Smith said the home's staff would have had direct contact with Wettlaufer and there appeared to be no problems. Also, Wilmot-Smith said she couldn't disclose the alcoholism because of privacy laws. 

There was also no indication that Wettlaufer had worked drunk or under the influence. 

"You had her for 40 shifts ... 40 shifts, days, evenings, nights, and on day shifts she would have been fully supervised by your registered staff," Wilmot-Smith angrily told the lawyer. 

Wilmot-Smith said Telfer Place was more concerned about the price it was paying for "agency nurses" and was trying to negotiate the rate charged by Lifeguard from $62 an hour to $42 an hour. 

Telfer Place and Revera also balked at paying for orientation for nurses placed at its facilities, she said.

"We would try to get [nurses] as much orientation as possible and they would try to offer as little as possible," Wilmot-Smith told the inquiry. 

The inquiry had heard earlier that Wettlaufer started her career after nursing school at Geraldton General Hospital in 1995. She was fired after stealing narcotics and almost passing out while on duty. Her record was wiped clean after a grievance from her union. 

'It's not fair'

Thursday's testimony wrapped up with nurse Agatha Krawczyk, who worked with Wettlaufer at the Caressant Care home in Woodstock, Ont., where she killed seven patients.

In March 2014, Krawczyk discovered that Wettlaufer had given the wrong kind of insulin to a patient for an entire weekend. That incident led to Wettlaufer being fired. 

Krawczyk testified that Caressant Care is being painted in a negative light and that Wettlaufer's crimes have had a deep impact on staff and residents there. 

"It's so unfair," she said. "I am proud that I am working for Caressant Care. We have a very caring staff. I don't agree with what I'm reading in the paper. We have a wonderful staff." 

The Long-Term Care Homes Public Inquiry, established on Aug. 1, 2017, after Wettlaufer was sentenced to eight concurrent life terms, is headed by Justice Eileen Gillese. It began hearings in St. Thomas on June 5 into how Wettlaufer's crimes went undetected for so long. 

Wettlaufer's killing spree began in 2007 and continued until 2016, when she finally confessed to a psychiatrist and a social worker. Until then, her employers, police and Ontario's licensing body for nurses had no idea eight patients had been murdered and six more poisoned — all with injections of massive doses of insulin.