Ontario nursing homes must report all deaths to coroner, but autopsy optional
Shocking accusations that a nurse murdered eight elderly patients in nursing homes in southwestern Ontario are prompting questions about the province's role in regulating nurses and monitoring long-term care homes.
Elizabeth Tracy Mae Wettlaufer, 49, was charged with eight counts of first-degree murder on Tuesday. She is accused of killing seven patients at the Caressant Care Nursing Home in Woodstock and one at the Meadow Park Nursing Home in London.
The NDP member of the provincial legislature for London-Fanshawe, Teresa Armstrong, brought up the charges in question period on Tuesday.
"There is a genuine question that people are asking this morning: How do murders go undetected for nearly 10 years inside any long-term care home in Ontario?" Armstrong asked.
Premier Kathleen Wynne and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi declined to answer Armstrong directly. "It would be highly inappropriate for any one of us to comment extensively on the ongoing police investigation," said Naqvi.
Nursing homes and the nursing profession are highly regulated in Ontario. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is responsible for monitoring nursing homes. The College of Nurses of Ontario oversees and regulates the 150,000 nursing professionals in the province.
Under provincial law, long-term care homes are required to notify the coroner of every death. An autopsy is not mandatory, but the coroner has the power to order one.
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