Two senior staff at a Victoria society for people with development disabilities have had their nursing registration suspended for more than four years as a result of complaints of misconduct and mistreatment of residents, but continue to be employed.
The suspensions began as interim measures in May 2018 when the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives’ (BCCNM) started investigating allegations against Garth Homer Society executive director of service operations, Euphemia “Phemie” Guttin, and senior manager of health services and education, Victoria Weber.
On May 23 of this year, the college’s inquiry committee reported the results of its investigation, stating that both Guttin and Weber’s nursing registration would be continue to be suspended for another 12 months. Both have remained in the employ of the Garth Homer Society.
Society CEO Mitchell Temkin said in a statement that Guttin and Weber “continue to be integral members of the Garth Homer team and have our full support and confidence.” He said both staffers, in their consent agreements with the college, noted they do not agree with every determination made by the inquiry committee.
Complaints the basis of suspensions
The suspension of Guttin stems from three complaints between 2015 and 2018 lodged by different clients’ family members and one complaint from a former employee.
Weber had three complaints lodged by different clients’ family members and one from a former employee between 2016 and 2018. She was investigated twice during that time by the college.
Both women had a substantial say in how medically complex or vulnerable clients living in residential services were treated. Guttin also oversaw day programs for about 256 clients.
In its investigation the college’s inquiry committee found Guttin didn’t ensure appropriate policies were in place for the residential housing program, and didn’t properly respond to parental concerns about their children or provide them with adequate or accurate information.
“…their concerns were minimized…,” the committee wrote.
Guttin’s “rigid communication policies” obstructed parents and legal representatives’ access to and interactions with their children, the inquiry found. In cases where the client was cognitively challenged and non-verbal, that obstruction eliminated the parents’ roles as advocates for their children and effectively silenced the voice of the vulnerable client in care.
Guttin was also found to not adequately document her on-call clinical advice to her care staff.
In Weber’s case, the inquiry determined that she failed to appropriately delegate, train or orient her unregulated care staff – who aren’t licensed by government or a professional body – and restricted the ability of regulated staff to contact partner health professionals about their client.
“When a client was exhibiting ongoing and concerning symptoms, she did not adequately assess the client, she did not adequately document her actions or directions to staff,” the committee wrote.
On multiple occasions, the inquiry found, Weber failed to ensure clients received their ordered medication, and in one instance, didn’t check that a client who suffered from occasional hypoxia received oxygen in a timely manner.
Weber was also known to ask care staff to send photos of their clients to her over their cell phones instead of assessing them in person. She did so without obtaining clients’ consent.
Like Guttin, Weber was found to have effectively silenced the voice of clients in care, according to the report.
Suspensions among various repercussions
Guttin was issued a 15-month suspension and Weber 18 months, but both will only serve 12 months, having already been suspended since the investigation began in May 2018. They are both required to complete a series of learning activities, meet with college consultants and work under supervision if and when they return.
If Guttin wishes to continue as a nurse administrator, she will have to obtain a mentor for six months of coaching. If she wants to engage in direct client care or clinical support, she must complete a nursing refresher course or provide proof of clinical competency and complete a period of supervision.
Upon Weber’s return, she will be prohibited from lead duties for 18 months. If she wants to return to a direct patient care position, she must complete at least 80 hours of orientation and six months of supervision.
“The Inquiry Committee is satisfied that the terms will protect the public,” the committee wrote.
Temkin wrote that the inquiry has not affected services offered by the Garth Homer Society, noting that “families continue to express a high level of satisfaction.” He said in a recent Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities survey, accreditation officials made no recommendations for improvement, and that for a second straight time, the society’s residential program also had zero recommendations.
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