Practitioner’s registration canceled over improper patient relationship

Date: Jun 16, 2019

When working in the medical profession, there are guidelines employees have to adhere to in order to maintain the level of professionalism required in their position. Understanding and practising appropriate boundaries with patients is a key component of these requirements. However, this concept is sometimes lost on individual practitioners, as outlined in the below case.

Background of the case

The respondent became a registered nurse on January 18, 2010. In September 2014, she started work as a part-time nurse at the Uniting Medically Supervised Injecting Centre (MSIC) in Sydney.

According to information published in the Caselaw report, MSIC is a harm reduction health service located in Kings Cross where people lawfully inject illegal substances under professional medical supervision. Its aim is to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths and the transmission of bloodborne viruses.

The case in question centres around the respondent's conduct whilst working at MSIC. On March 17, 2017, MSIC staff spoke with the respondent about allegations that had been brought to their attention stating she was in a relationship with a visitor of MSIC (Patient A). At the time, the respondent denied the allegations.

Following a period of leave, the respondent returned to work on April 3, 2017. The next day another MSIC staff member spoke with the woman about the allegations, which the respondent again denied.

On April 10, 2017, the respondent told her manager about her relationship with Patient A. At the same time, she resigned from her employment at MSIC.

On June 14, 2018, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) applied to the Tribunal for orders under the National Law against the respondent. The application was comprised of a complaint that claimed the respondent's conduct was significantly below the standard reasonably expected of a practitioner of an equivalent level of training or experience.

What did the Tribunal decide?

After reviewing all evidence, the Tribunal was satisfied that the complaint regarding the respondent's behaviour was proved by the HCCC. It felt her conduct was very seriously unprofessional as she commenced and continued a personal relationship with a client who was extremely vulnerable and in need of professional medical help. Furthermore, she had several opportunities to disclose her relationship, yet she delayed the process until the date of her resignation. 

As the complaint of unsatisfactory professional conduct had been proved, the Tribunal cancelled the practitioner's registration and restricted her from reviewing the cancellation order until 12 months after the date of the decision. 

If you feel a medical professional has overstepped their boundaries, it's important to get the opinion of a trusted medical negligence legal team. Give Gerard Malouf & Partners a call to discover your options. 

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts or email your enquiry.