Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. woman who allegedly faked nursing licence was jailed in Ontario over 4-year-old son's death

A woman who allegedly faked a nursing licence to work at a long-term care home in Gander was sentenced to 2½ years in jail for the death of her four-year-old son in Hamilton, Ont.

Lisa Driscoll, also known as Lisa Strickland, convicted of criminal negligence causing death in 2021

Lisa Strickland was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for criminal negligence causing death in the death of her four-year-old son. Sources tell CBC News she is the same person who worked 25 shifts impersonating a registered nurse in a Gander care home. (Facebook)

A woman who allegedly faked a nursing licence to work at a long-term care home in Gander was sentenced to 2½ years in jail for the death of her four-year-old son in Hamilton.

CBC News has learned through sources with direct knowledge of the situation that Lisa Driscoll — who was flagged by Central Health on Wednesday after working 25 shifts as an unlicensed nurse between August and November — is also known as Lisa Strickland.

The Bonavista woman was living in Hamilton in 2017, when her four-year-old son, Kane Driscoll, was found dead in her home. Police charged Strickland with manslaughter in 2019, but she pleaded down to criminal negligence causing death. She was sentenced to 2½ years in prison on Jan. 15, 2021, but with credit for time served, she only spent 75 more days behind bars.

Strickland told the court she intended to return home to Newfoundland afterwards. According to the Hamilton Spectator, she told the judge she knew she would lose her credentials as a licensed practical nurse, and would instead study a trade online.

According to Central Health, a woman named Lisa Driscoll applied to work as a travel nurse through the agency Solutions Staffing Inc., and passed through the company's due diligence process.

"When we have contracted individuals come in to work with us, the verifying and vetting of the employees' credentials that they have hired are the responsibility of the company," said Joanne Pelley, Central Health's vice-president of integrated health and chief nursing executive.

Pelley couldn't say what will now happen with Central Health's relationship with Solutions Staffing Inc.

Strickland named in public database before hiring

All registered nurses in the province have their names and licence numbers posted on the College of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador website.

According to Central Health, Strickland used the licence number of a nurse with a very similar name that was posted online.

Central Health said the problem was flagged by the college on Dec. 14. A subsequent investigation by the health authority found no instances of patient harm related to her work at Lakeside Homes, but two issues flagged with her performance "unrelated to resident care had been raised and addressed."

Aside from the list of registered nurses, there is also a national list of unlicensed nurses that is compiled by the College of Nurses of Ontario. CBC News was able to find Strickland's name — as well as the aliases Lisa Driscoll and Michelle Driscoll — on that list with a quick Google search.

Archived versions of the page show her name was published on the website as far back as June, before she ever worked at Lakeside Homes.

CBC News attempted to contact Strickland by email, and through known family members.

Hamilton police arrested Strickland in connection with the death of her son, Kane Driscoll, in 2019. (Facebook)

Arrested in Newfoundland in 2019

Police began an investigation after her son's death in 2017. When charges were laid in 2019, police found Strickland was living in Newfoundland and had given birth to another child. 

Kane Driscoll died of hydromorphone poisoning. Hamilton police said his death was ruled a homicide.

In court, however, Driscoll said she was "in the throes of addiction" with hydromorphone — a powerful prescription opioid. According to an article from the Hamilton Spectator, she told the court it made her "careless." She said her son must have gotten into her medication without her noticing.

"I hope you move on to a productive life," the judge reportedly told her as he handed down her sentence. 

A review done by a pathologist afterwards found Strickland was being prescribed eight times the normal amount of hydromorphone, and that nothing in her charts indicated she needed that much medication.

Never again, says Central Health

Central Health vice-president Joanne Pelley said is reaching out to residents of Lakeside Homes and their families to confirm there were no further incidents involving Strickland.

She said the entire situation has been unprecedented for their region, adding the health authority has passed the situation over to the RCMP.

"In Central Health, it will not happen again," Pelley said, noting they'll now do a second vet of all credentials before travel nurses come into the region.

A sign on a brick wall says "Lakeside Homes," and a brick personal care home sits in the background.
Lakeside Homes, located in Gander, falls under the responsibility of Central Health. (Central Northeast Health Foundation)

Neither Pelley nor the RCMP will confirm that Lisa Driscoll is in fact Lisa Strickland.

"I can say this is an isolated incident," Pelley said. 

Union raises concerns with travel nurses

Speaking before news of the past charges broke, the Registered Nurses' Union Newfoundland and Labrador said in a statement that this situation has been "incredibly upsetting for the patients and families involved. This is also very difficult news for nurses who worked alongside Ms. Driscoll."

The union also decried the province's use of travel nurses, saying it's become a growing problem for a number of reasons over the past year.

"In less than one year, the regional health authorities spent $8.8 million on private travel nurses," reads a statement from the union. "These travel nurses work side by side with registered nurses working in our public system who face enormous pressure to care for patients in communities throughout our province. They get paid twice as much or more and have actual control over their life and schedule."

The union says the use of travel nurses results in registered nurses resigning their positions in the public system to get more pay and flexibility as travel nurses.

"This increases vacancies and makes the health-care crisis worse," the union said.

Pelley, meanwhile, said the support from travel nurses has become essential — except in this "isolated incident."

"It's a concern for the staff, but I do want to say we work with many agencies and we do appreciate the support we get from the professionals we get when they come."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Rob Antle and Jessica Singer

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