After nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer confessed to killing eight people and harming six others in long-term care facilities, she pleaded guilty to murder last year and was sentenced to life in prison. With nothing changed in the way care facilities run since the murders, victims of loved ones lost made their statements at a public inquiry at the Elgin County Courthouse to recommend safer ways to run facilities across the province.
Emotions ran high during and after the public inquiry. Arpad Horvath lost his father due to an overdose of insulin given by Wettlaufer. Originally the family thought the death was due to age of his father. Later when the Wettlaufer case was released, he could not believe it that his father was murdered. He said it made it ten times worse to deal with the loss. He explained how important his father was to him and the strain it has put on the family.
“He was my father. He was a family member like everyone else. We all loved him very much and I miss him every day I get up in the morning. He was more than just a name on a list.”
Horvath says you cannot put a price on human life and he would give anything to have his father back. Making long-term care facilities safer is something he doesn’t have a strong opinion on, because it is never going to bring his father back. But also says something needs to be done so people do not have to go through what he did in the future.
Andrea Silcox also lost her father, James Silcox, to Wettlaufers actions. Andrea and her two sons were very close to their grandpa. Near the end Andrea’s two sons were all that James was living for. She says what she will miss the most from all her years she got to spend with her father.
“In my father’s final days, he was really fighting the aging process. But he sure knew his grandchildren and that’s what I’ll miss the most. Because I knew they really brought him happiness.”
As Andrea and her two sons walk away from the court house, they hope that someone listened to them in there and took their recommendations strongly. Andrea and her two sons brought forward the idea that all long-term care homes should be checked on a regular basis by the ministry. Also an increase in the number of registered nurses working in the facility. Saying so because if more nurses were working on a shift at the time Wettlaufer was, it would have at least lessened the chance of her getting to the amount of people she did.
Other recommendations brought forward by victims to keep long-term care homes safer included mandatory security cameras in every room, drug and alcohol testing at random times on all nurses, and stricter process of hiring for the homes.
Victims want change for the better. Justice has taken its course and they are ready for a change that will benefit the future population from ever having to endure what they did.
“My life not been the same, and never will be,” said Susan Horvath, who lost her father.
“I no longer know who I am because Elizabeth Wettlaufer consumes my life every day. People say it’s over and that she’s in jail. But it’s never over, it never will be,” said Beverly Bertram, survivor of a serial killer attack by Wettlaufer.
Lawyer for the victims and victims’ relatives, Alex Van Kralingen, agrees that it’s time for a change and it’s important hearing from these victims to take the proper steps moving forward in making facilities safer for future patients.
“Capturing the amount of pain these people have gone through is not going to be easy, but I actually think it’s very important to have those emotions be shown to all Ontarians if they’re going to understand the stakes and the significance of the issue.”
Court will proceed the rest of the week to look at further recommendations for making long-term care facilities safer across the province. A plan may be produced by the end of this week that will have specific guidelines that all Ontario long-term homes will need to follow hopefully in the next year.