There has been an increasing number of medical negligence cases highlighting how numerous practitioners in the NSW area are crossing professional boundaries with patients. This was evident in a recent case brought before the Civil and Administrative Tribunal of NSW where a practitioner engaged in a relationship with one of his patients.
Background of the practitioner's misconduct
The defendant first registered as a nurse in 2013. From August 2013 to February 2017, he worked in the Mental Health Inpatient Unit of Manning Base Hospital.
The Health Care Complaints Commission brought forward complaints concerning the practitioner, more specifically regarding a sexual relationship he had with a former patient in 2016 and matters concerning his mental health.
The patient was a woman with complex and serious mental health issues, as well as a chronic physical illness. She was also living in a domestic violence relationship.
Between 2013 and 2015, the patient had five admissions to the unit. On two of these occasions she was under the direct care of the defendant.
In October 2016, the patient approached the defendant standing outside the hospital.
Following this interaction, the practitioner exchanged phone numbers with the patient, met up with her for a coffee, invited her to his home and engaged in a sexual relationship with her for four to six weeks from October 2016. During this time he also smoked cannabis in her presence and provided her with the drug.
The defendant admitted to all of the aforementioned allegations.
The HCCC also made reference to the practitioner's mental health, which it felt impeded his ability to perform in a way that was expected of a medical practitioner in his position.
What did the Tribunal decide?
The Tribunal enlisted a report from a peer expert who was very critical of the practitioner's conduct. She believed his behaviour fell significantly below the standard reasonably expected of a registered nurse with an equivalent level of training or experience.
Furthermore, the expert noted that when the practitioner was first approached by the patient, he should have declined to exchange phone numbers and explained the need for professional boundaries.
While the defendant expressed remorse for his actions, both the Tribunal and the HCCC felt that his conduct was unsatisfactory and unprofessional. As such, if the practitioner was still registered as a nurse, the Tribunal would have cancelled his registration.
Medical negligence can take many forms. If you feel that a medical professional has pushed the boundaries and you want to explore your options, it's important you enlist legal help. Get in touch with the medical negligence lawyers at Gerard Malouf & Partners for more advice.