Inquiry hears from Wettlaufer's last employer before she confessed

There was more finger-pointing Wednesday morning at the Wettlaufer inquiry, with the College of Nurses of Ontario accusing a Woodstock, Ont., care home of trying to paint the regulatory body in a bad light after the serial killer's crimes came to light.

Disgraced nurse says she quit job because she didn't trust herself to administer insulin to children

Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleaded guilty to eight counts of first-degree murder for killing nursing home patients. Police now believe she committed additional attacks. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press)

There was more finger-pointing Wednesday morning at the Wettlaufer inquiry, with the College of Nurses of Ontario accusing a Woodstock, Ont., care home of trying to paint the regulatory body in a bad light after serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer's crimes came to light. 

Lawyers at the public inquiry into long-term care spent much of the morning arguing about what they could ask Carol Hepting, the vice-president of operations at Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont., where Elizabeth Wettlaufer worked from 2007 until she was fired in 2014.

The inquiry was shown a letter sent in October 2016 from Hepting to the College of Nurses, telling the regulatory body that Caressant Care wants to "restate our position that [Wettlaufer] is unfit to safely practice nursing." 

Hepting sent the letter after Caressant Care learned that Wettlaufer confessed to killing seven people at the home. She looked up Wettlaufer's name on the College of Nurses website and found that she was still in good standing and noted as being able to practice without restriction.  

But the lawyer for the College, Mark Sandler, tried to suggest that Caressant Care never actually told the regulatory body that Wettlaufer was unfit to practice when the home fired her for making a medication error in 2014. 

A letter sent to the College of Nurses of Ontario by Carol Hepting, vice-president of operations at Caressant Care in Woodstock, Ont., in October 2016, after Elizabeth Wettlaufer's crimes came to light. (Kate Dubinski/CBC )

In that 2014 report to the college, Caressant Care's director of nursing Helen Crombez said she didn't find Wettlaufer unfit, incompetent or incapacitated. In fact, Caressant Care, after agreeing to a settlement with Wettlaufer's union, provided the nurse with a letter of reference. 

Caressant Care later used the letter to manage its public relations image, Sandler put forward, by showing it to the media after Wettlaufer's crimes became public to suggest that the College of Nurses could have pulled Wettlaufer's licence earlier. 

After leaving Caressant Care, Wettlaufer went on to work at a London, Ont., care home, where she killed another resident. She then worked at a temp agency and for a home nursing provider where she tried to kill others. 

Nurse didn't trust herself around kids

Wednesday afternoon, the inquiry heard from Wettlaufer's co-workers at St. Elizabeth Home Health Care in Oxford County.

Wettlaufer worked there starting in July 2016 for just over a month.

She would visit people in their homes and had also been tasked with working with kids, to give them insulin. But just a month into the job, in August 2016, Wettlaufer quit, later telling police she couldn't be sure she wouldn't harm the children.

Wettlaufer tried to kill one elderly patient while visiting her home as a St. Elizabeth nurse. Beverly Bertram, 68, of Ingersoll, Ont., survived an insulin overdose in August 2016. Wettlaufer had stolen the insulin from another patient.

In an agreed statement of facts used at the inquiry, it was revealed that Wettlaufer stole the insulin from another patient with the specific intent of covering her tracks.

The patient Wettlaufer tried to kill was diabetic, so using another insulin supply would have kept the intended target's insulin from appearing "unusually depleted," according to the document.

Drug put in PICC line

The inquiry also heard that Wettlaufer administered the harmful insulin dose through the patient's "PICC line," a type of catheter.

Tamara Condy, the RN at St. Elizabeth who hired Wettlaufer, told the inquiry that Wettlaufer had displayed problems while performing PICC line administration and was temporarily barred from performing the task before the incident.

While accompanying Wettlaufer on a home visit, Condy said the nurse was unusually slow in performing a PICC line dressing change, but that she did appear to know how the procedure was supposed to work.

"I thought at the time that it had become a situation of anxiety for her," Condy said.

Wettlaufer was recertified to perform PICC line duties after that day.

Wettlaufer later admitted to police that she administered what she described as a "huge amount" of insulin to the patient through her PICC line. She did so because she felt "frustrated and angry with her job" according to police, and made the injection with the intent to kill.

Inquiry runs until fall

The public inquiry into long-term care is into its fourth week in a St. Thomas, Ont., court.

Wettlaufer confessed to a psychiatrist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, in September 2016, that she injected people with insulin between 2007 and 2016, killing eight and harming six.

The Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes System was established on Aug. 1, 2017, after Wettlaufer was sentenced to eight concurrent life terms. It began hearings on June 5, and is examining how Wettlaufer's crimes went undetected for so long.

Her 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 with injections of massive doses of insulin.

The inquiry is scheduled to last until September.