TORONTO – The case of a nurse who murdered eight seniors in long-term care homes in Ontario will be examined in a public inquiry.
The Ontario government announced Monday it is moving to appoint a commissioner to lead a public inquiry into the circumstances of the deaths.
Elizabeth Wettlaufer pleaded guilty last month to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault. She was sentenced Monday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi offered condolences on behalf of the provincial government to Wettlaufer’s victims.
The ministers say they want to assure the public that, despite Wettlaufer’s crimes, the 78,000 residents of Ontario’s publicly funded long-term care homes are safe.
At the same time, they said the inquiry process is meant to answer questions so the government can ensure a similar tragedy does not happen again.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario applauded the government’s announcement Monday, saying it had been demanding an inquiry into the case since Wettlaufer pleaded guilty earlier this month.
“During this immensely difficult time, I commend the government for having the courage to put these events under the microscope,” said association CEO Doris Grinspun. “The inquiry will help us learn how this tragedy happened, and see if there were any cracks in the system we can address to prevent this from happening ever again.”
Advocacy groups CARP and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly said the Wettlaufer case has “severely shaken” people’s confidence in long-term care homes in Ontario.
“We eagerly await the terms of the inquiry to ensure that its scope is sufficient to address the actions, responsibilities and duties of the many institutions and individuals who failed to prevent or put a timely stop to Wettlaufer’s crimes …” the two groups said in a statement.
“This is a critical first step to restoring trust in our long-term health-care system.”
The government is finalizing the details of the inquiry and will make them available to the public once they have been approved by cabinet.