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In The Field: Abigail Bimman

When I first called Park Lane Terrace to inquire about an unregistered nurse working on staff, the administrator scoffed at me. “That’s not true ... All of our staff are registered,” I was told.

Abigail Bimman describes how she ended up alerting long-term care facilities to a nurse with fake credentials. 


 

Laura Erskine worked as a nurse at a long-term care home in Paris, Ontario, for nearly two years. While she cared for the vulnerable and was responsible for handling narcotics, she never had the qualifications to do so. The CTV Kitchener investigation began with a tip. The pieces prompted an investigation by provincial police, which resulted in two fraud and forgery charges. Erskine pleaded guilty to fraud on June 22nd, 2017, and was given a suspended sentence on August 22.  

Initially, a resident’s family member approached me with grave concerns about care at Park Lane Terrace. By reading publicly available provincial Ministry of Health inspection reports, I found the home had been repeatedly admonished for making the same errors over and over. In researching that broader story, I learned the Ontario Personal Support Workers’ Association had launched a complaint with the College of Nurses of Ontario about an unregistered nurse on staff. OPSWA had been tipped off by someone connected to the home. The College acknowledged receipt of that letter, but weeks later, nothing had changed. The focus of my investigation narrowed to the case of Laura Erskine.  

When I first called Park Lane Terrace to inquire about an unregistered nurse working on staff, the administrator scoffed at me. “That’s not true ... All of our staff are registered,” I was told. I spoke with Erskine briefly by phone –she and the home’s administrator told me there was some kind of a “clerical error,” on the College’s end, and Erskine was certainly registered. Yet within 24 hours, she was placed on investigative leave and fired the next week. Two weeks after that, police laid charges. In total, our coverage prompted investigations by at least six organizations.  

By speaking with OPSWA, the College, family at Park Lane and searching social media, I learned Erskine graduated from nursing school, but never completed the steps required for registration, a legal requirement to call yourself a nurse in Ontario. The registration process includes writing two exams, paying dues and being vetted by the College. 

Court heard after CTV contacted Park Lane, Erskine came up with a fake registration letter by asking to see a colleague’s and doctoring her own version. She made some changes, but retained the colleague’s file number, and handed it in to her employer and the College. Erskine then tried to implicate her colleague, telling police detectives the other nurse had actually typed up the fake letter for Erskine. 

My initial phone call to Park Lane and the attitude and mentality it represents stay with me, reinforcing why investigative work in the long-term care sector is critical. Obviously, being responsible for narcotics and a vulnerable segment of the population is serious work. For two years at Park Lane, Erskine was able to do both without having her qualifications checked. This problem extends beyond one home. Our investigation revealed before Park Lane, Erskine worked at a retirement home. At the time, a colleague alerted management and the College that Erskine wasn’t registered– and nothing happened. It took CTV involvement for an unregistered nurse to be pulled from her duties. To this day, the administration of the retirement home refuses to comment about her employment there, or what steps it takes to check staff qualifications.

CTV Kitchener took steps to be responsible in our coverage. It happened to coincide with a somewhat similar story, former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer facing eight murder charges. As public anxiety about care in nursing homes was higher than usual, we were careful not to sensationalize or link the stories. My news director chose to hold my first piece, giving the nursing home and Erskine another 24 hours to provide proof Erskine was registered. Even the head of the company which runs Park Lane told me she found our coverage responsible.

Beyond issues at two specific homes, I believe these pieces shed light on the College of Nurses’ lack of public accountability. It took days to answer simple questions, and major questions were ignored. Most concerning, of course, the College’s supposed knowledge of this problem in 2014. 


 

Abigail Bimman is a videographer & anchor for CTV Kitchener, Ontario, and part of a new investigative unit. She is a previous CAJ winner. 

The recipient in the COMMUNITY BROADCAST category

Abigail Bimman

Unregistered nurse

CTV News Kitchener

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