Nurses at centre of B.C. probe over care of disabled adults disciplined again

·4 min read
Registered nurses Victoria Weber, left, and Euphemie Guttin were both suspended from practice after an investigation that uncovered unprofessional conduct in connection with their care of adults with disabilities. (Garth Homer Society. - image credit)
Registered nurses Victoria Weber, left, and Euphemie Guttin were both suspended from practice after an investigation that uncovered unprofessional conduct in connection with their care of adults with disabilities. (Garth Homer Society. - image credit)

Two B.C. nurses who lost their jobs overseeing programs for hundreds of developmentally disabled adults after serious concerns were uncovered about their conduct have been disciplined once again.

Both Victoria Weber and Euphemia (Phemie) Guttin signed new consent agreements with the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives last month, extending the suspensions of their nursing licences.

The new disciplinary measures come after both nurses breached the terms of previous disciplinary agreements with the college. Those agreements were signed in relation to findings that included restricting their clients' access to their families and medical care.

They have also been accused of culpability in a young woman's death by allegedly ignoring her symptoms for months.

In May, Weber and Guttin both agreed to licence suspensions of more than a year after admitting to "unprofessional conduct" in their work as senior managers for the Garth Homer Society in Victoria.

That's in addition to suspensions that had been in place since May 2018, when the college began investigating complaints from three family members and a former employee.

According to the latest public notices from the college, Weber violated the terms of her agreement with the college when she failed to provide notice that she was on leave from her job as Garth Homer's senior manager for health services and education or that she was later fired.

Guttin, the former executive director for service operations at Garth Homer, failed to complete the educational coursework that was a requirement of her previous discipline agreement.

Weber's licence has been suspended for another two months, while Guttin's suspension will last at least another month, depending on when she completes the required coursework.

When the college first released details of its investigation into the two nurses in May, it took the unusual step of publicly highlighting the case because Weber and Guttin were still in their high-level jobs at the society. At the time, the Garth Homer Society described them as "integral members" of the team.

Weber and Guttin were both let go in August, and the society has declined to comment about what changed.

Lawsuit filed over young woman's death

Since the results of the college's investigation were released in May, all three families that complained to the college have spoken out about their concerns. In all three cases, the college has said Weber and Guttin "effectively obstructed" parents from seeing their children and advocating on their behalf.

In the most serious case, Margaret Lavery has alleged in a lawsuit that Weber, Guttin and the Garth Homer Society "caused or contributed to" her 21-year-old daughter Katrina's death by ignoring symptoms of a bowel obstruction for months.

Supplied by Margaret Lavery
Supplied by Margaret Lavery

Lavery's civil claim suggests the two nurses rebuffed support staff who urged them to seek medical attention and severely restricted Lavery's access to her daughter when she spoke out about her concerns.

The Garth Homer Society has denied that the actions of any of its staff contributed to Katrina's death, and Lavery's claims have not been proven in court.

Community Living B.C., the Crown agency that provides support for adults with developmental disabilities, also launched an investigation in the aftermath of Katrina's death.

In May 2018, it cancelled its housing contract with the Garth Homer Society, withdrew funding for five residences and removed the society from a list of pre-qualified vendors for residential services, according to a civil claim filed by the society this spring.

CBC News has also spoken to Cyndie Bourke, the mother of an intellectually disabled young woman who revoked her consent for residential care after becoming concerned she was being kept in the dark about her daughter's health.

Weber went behind Bourke's back and had her daughter sign the consent forms instead, according to the college.

The college also found that Weber delayed orders for Bourke's daughter's medication and oxygen supplies and failed to make sure staff had appropriate skills and training for dealing with her catheter, tracheostomy and ventilator.

Finally, Edith Artner shared documents from the college showing that Guttin and Weber "negatively characterized and labelled you as difficult and/or threatening" when she tried to advocate for her son.

The college found that her son suffered scarring to his corneas while he was in Guttin and Weber's care and developed behavioural problems.