Long-term care home tightens security after imposter gave drugs to residents

Marshall Gowland Manor on Devine Street. Journal Photo

Cathy Dobson

A Sarnia long-term care home has tightened security measures after an unauthorized man posing as a student nurse was discovered providing drugs and other care to residents.

The man, wearing nursing “scrubs,” entered Marshall Gowland Manor on the evenings of Nov. 21, Nov. 28 and Dec. 3, 2019 and administered medications to multiple residents, according to an inspector’s report for the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

In some instances, controlled substances were given to specific residents, the report states.

MGM is a 126-bed facility on Devine Street operated by Lambton County.

The ministry report did not identify the individual.

Jane Joris, the county’s general manager of long-term care, said she could not identify the man because his name wasn’t readily available to her.

However, Joris said it’s her understanding the man was a registered practical nurse at the time of the incidents. He graduated from Lambton College’s nursing program in recent years, had done a student placement at the home, and been a volunteer there in the past, she said.

“It appears he wanted to get experience. That’s what he told the police,” she said. “It is a very strange thing. Why would anyone do that?”

No residents were harmed and no medications were incorrectly handed out, she added.

Staff at Marshall Gowland Manor did not question the man and worked alongside him when he showed up on Nov. 21 and 28. The medications he administered to residents included controlled drugs.

The man cared for as many as 20 residents, Joris said.

“Our staff is used to having student nurses around and this one had lots of good skills because he is a nurse,” she said.

But on Dec. 3, a staff nurse noticed no instructor was working with the man. Student nurses at the home work either in groups or with an instructor, said Joris.

The nurse “just didn’t feel right” about him, she said. The nurse called a manager after the man left for home and was told no students were expected that night.

Police were called immediately, she said.

No similar incidents have been reported at any other Lambton County long-term care facilities.

Sarnia police ultimately decided there were no grounds for criminal charges against the imposter.

The Ontario College of Nurses, Lambton College and the Ministry of Long-Term Care were notified immediately by the home.

A ministry inspector arrived and completed an investigation over four days —Dec. 4, 5, 6 and 13, 2019. The administrator, director of care, pharmacist, police, staff and one resident were interviewed.

The ministry issued three compliance orders. One calls for proper identification of all volunteers, students, instructors and support providers.

MGM had a sign-in system previously, but was not asking for identification from visiting professionals. Identification is now required and visitor badges worn, said Joris.

Volunteers must also wear badges with photo ID, and the names of those expected at the facility are kept on a roster so they can be checked.

“The conundrum is that our home is home to 126 people and we want to make sure they can have visitors as they please,” said Joris.

A ministry order directed MGM to ensure a safe environment “by not allowing intruders into the home and by ensuring that only staff of the home provide direct care to the residents.”

MGM was also ordered to ensure all students have mandatory training before providing direct care to residents, and to restrict access to all areas where drugs are stored and secured.

A follow-up inspection report issued on Jan. 13 confirmed MGM had taken adequate action to comply with all three orders.

“The safety and security of our residents is top of mind,” said Joris.  “Staff did a good job. They caught it and we’ve closed all the gaps the ministry identified were of concern.”

Access policies and medication administration policies have been reviewed, changes implemented, and staff has received training “to remind them of best practices,” she added.