More than two months after an investigation revealed two high-level nurses mistreated adults with developmental disabilities, the Garth Homer Society says the nurses no longer work there.
An investigation into Euphemia “Phemie” Guttin, executive director of service operations, and Victoria Weber, senior manager of health services and education, began in 2018 when the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives became aware of three serious complaints against each of the women.
Both were accused by family members of Garth Homer Society clients of neglecting their loved ones’ needs and obstructing their access and interaction with them. In the most serious case, parent Margaret Lavery claims in an ongoing lawsuit that actions taken by Guttin and Weber led to the death of her 21-year-old daughter Katrina in 2018.
The civil claim states that Katrina, who suffered from severe physical and developmental disabilities and required 24-hour care, began to show that something was wrong in May 2017. Her abdomen was swelling and she was experiencing more frequent seizures and fevers. Over five months, things got progressively worse and support staff made frequent attempts to contact Guttin and Weber for assistance and direction, but neither woman ever sought medical attention for Katrina, the lawsuit claims.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
When Lavery complained to Garth Homer Society and Community Living B.C., a Crown agency that provides support to people with disabilities, she says the society restricted her ability to see Katrina and access information about her. Katrina was eventually admitted to hospital and later died.
Garth Homer Society has denied the actions of its staff had anything to do with Katrina’s death.
Edith Artner told Black Press Media she also filed complaints against Guttin and Weber to the society and Community Living B.C., after staff gave her 24-year-old son Finn food he couldn’t eat, failed to pick up his prescriptions or administer his medication correctly and installed a confounding door lock to restrict him from accessing his bathroom on his own.
Artner said her son’s mental health deteriorated to the point where he tried to jump out of a moving car. He is no longer staying at the society’s facility.
During the three-year investigation process, the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives suspended both women’s nursing registrations, and upon concluding the probe on May 23 of this year, ordered that they remain suspended for another 12 months. Despite the determination, the Garth Homer Society chose to continue to employ Guttin and Weber up until this week.
In a statement to Black Press Media in June, CEO Mitchell Temkin said the women continued “to be integral members of the Garth Homer team and have our full support and confidence.” He noted that the nurses hadn’t agreed with every determination made in the concluding report.
This week though, families of the affected clients were told in an email from the society’s board chair, Chris Lovelace, that Guttin and Weber were no longer employed there. They were also told Temkin would be moving his retirement up from the end of the year to the end of September.
In a statement to Black Press Media on behalf of Lovelace, the society said it is in the midst of searching for replacements for Guttin, Weber and Temkin.
For Artner, accountability after three years of people repeatedly voicing their concerns is disturbingly late.
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