Sarnia long-term care home tightens security after unauthorized volunteer provided medication to patients

A Sarnia-Lambton long-term care facility has updated its security practices after a former volunteer and licensed registered practical nurse (RPN) provided unauthorized medical care to patients over the course of three days in 2019. 

Jane Joris, general manager of long-term care with Lambton County, explained that the man in question previously completed a student placement at Lambton County's Marshall Gowland Manor long-term care home, adding that he was no longer a student nor a volunteer when he provided care to patients on Nov. 21, Nov. 28 and Dec. 3 at the same facility.

Joris said the man was a graduate of Lambton College's RPN program and has a license to be an RPN. 

As a direct result of the man's actions, the Ministry of Long-Term Care called on Marshall Gowland Manor to improve its security and screening methods. 

Joris said the facility has since updated its volunteer and student policies, and now asks for identification when students enter the building. 

Student names have been added to a daily roster that details people who are supposed to be in the building, "so that the registered staff can look and see if these people are to be in the building," Joris said.

"We provide visitor badges and student badges for any visiting professionals or students that are in the building and have to sign in and receive that badge, otherwise they would be asked to leave by the staff," she added.

Joris said the facility has already conducted staff training "about checking with people who are in the building while they're there, if they don't have a badge."

External service providers must also have identification when they come to carry out work at Marhsall Gowland. 

Additionally, Marshall Gowland Manor now uses volunteer badges with photo identification. 

Man simply walked in wearing scrubs

Joris said the man presented himself as a nursing student, even though he wasn't an active student at the time. Staff did question him, but Joris said he provided convincing answers and seemed knowledgeable about medicine. 

A Dec. 29 Ministry of Long-Term Care inspection report explained that the man walked into the home "wearing scrubs" and was misidentified by a different RPN who assumed he was a personal support worker student. 

The ministry found that the man provided "direct care to specific residents, then this person told the RPN that they can assist with oral medication."

"On another date this person came to the same unit and the RPN allowed them to prepare and administer medications, including controlled substances to specific residents," reads an excerpt from the ministry's report. 

Read the Ministry of Long-Term Care's Dec. 29 report:

The same report said that a registered nurse was told by the man that he was a nursing student.

"The [registered nurse] allowed this person to prepare and administer medication including controlled substances to specific residents," according to the ministry's report. "The RN said that this person was left alone with a resident in their room for a brief period."

According to Joris, almost 20 patients were provided care by the man in question, though no patients were harmed as a result of his actions. Additionally, no patients were provided incorrect medication, nor where they provided incorrect dosages for the medication they were given.

She added that the man provided care for a total of seven hours over the course of three days.

He was finally outed after a staff member became suspicious because she hadn't been informed by a supervisor that a student was supposed to be in the building at the time. 

... This person was left alone with a resident in their room for a brief period. - Dec. 29 Ministry of Long-Term Care report

"The family members of all those [patients] were contacted," Joris said, adding that Sarnia police and the Ministry of Health were informed almost immediately. 

The facility also contacted Lambton College, as the man was wearing scrubs emblazoned with the college's insignia. 

The man told police he simply wanted to help, according to Joris. 

Joris said she isn't aware of a similar incident happening in the past, adding that she would "absolutely" describe such incidents as rare. 

"We were not expecting something like this to happen," she said. "It's always a balance, because 126 people do live in the home and they receive visitors, and we want to make sure that visitors feel comfortable coming to the home."

Questions about security procedures are best directed to the facility. - Mark Nesbitt, Spokesperson, Ontario Ministry of Long-Term Care

In an email statement, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Long-Term Care said the agency "takes the issue of resident safety very seriously."

"The delivery of safe, quality and resident-centred care is a top priority for the ministry," wrote spokesperson Mark Nesbitt. 

"In recognition that residents of long-term care homes are a vulnerable population, there are qualification requirements in Ontario Regulation 79/10 (Regulation) under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 (LTCHA) for specific positions, including registered nursing staff."

"Questions about security procedures are best directed to the facility."