A company that operates several nursing homes had placed serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer on a “do not hire list,” a public inquiry has heard.
Yet Wettlaufer ended up working as a registered nurse at the company’s nursing homes because she was on “the black list” with her maiden name — Elizabeth Parker — the inquiry was told today. At one of those nursing homes, in September 2015, Wettlaufer tried to kill resident Sandra Fowler with an injected overdose of insulin.
The revelation adds to the numerous systemic failures — and missed red flags — that allowed Wettlaufer to kill eight people in her care while assaulting or trying to kill six others with insulin overdoses.
The “do not hire list” was revealed by Heidi Wilmot-Smith, president of the Lifeguard Homecare agency, which provides registered nurses and other caregivers to nursing homes facing staffing shortages. Wettlaufer worked for Lifeguard from January 2015, until she resigned in September 2016.
Wilmot-Smith testified that the “do not hire” issue came to light after police began investigating Wettlaufer’s crimes in October 2016. Wilmot-Smith said a senior vice-president of Revera Long Term Care, which operates several nursing homes, told her that the company had suddenly learned that Wettlaufer was on the list under her maiden name.
“That’s probably why they did not catch it, because Beth was practising under the surname Wettlaufer,” Wilmot-Smith said.
The inquest was not told when Wettlaufer was placed on the list, or why. Elizabeth Parker became Elizabeth Wettlaufer when she married in 1997. Her husband applied for and received a divorce in 2008.
Wettlaufer first tried to kill a nursing-home resident in 2007 while working at the Caressant Care home in Woodstock, Ont. She confessed, unprompted, to her crimes in September 2016, ending a two-decade-long career as a registered nurse marked by numerous medication errors, suspensions for incompetence, and murder.
The public inquiry was called by the provincial government to determine the systemic failures that allowed Wettlaufer to keep killing and harming residents in her care without being stopped.
Wilmot-Smith said she had no idea Wettlaufer had been fired from two workplaces when she hired her in 2015. The College of Nurses of Ontario, responsible for protecting the public from bad nurses, was informed of both firings. But when Wilmot-Smith checked Wettlaufer’s standing with the college, she found a spotless public record.
Wilmot-Smith said she called Wettlaufer’s former supervisor at Caressant Care, registered nurse Sandra Flutter, and was told that Wettlaufer was a “very caring” nurse and a “good team player.”
By the time she began working for Wilmot-Smith, Wettlaufer had already killed eight people and assaulted or tried to kill four others. The first sign of trouble in her new job occurred a month after she was hired, when Wettlaufer didn’t show up for a shift at the Telfer Place nursing home in Paris, Ont. When reached by phone that day, Wettlaufer said she couldn’t attend because she had been drinking.
Months later, Wettlaufer revealed to Wilmot-Smith that she was an alcoholic who had started drinking again.
By April 2016, the director of care at Telfer emailed Wilmot-Smith to say she no longer wanted Wettlaufer to work at the nursing home. The email noted that a doctor at the home “did not feel confident in (Wettlaufer’s) abilities to assess our residents and carry out basic nursing duties.”