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Tribunal bans nurse from aged care for five years

26 Sep 2019

A tribunal has disqualified a nurse from re-applying for registration or working in aged care for five years after she over-involved herself in an elderly patient’s affairs and benefitted from his will.

In 2015, Ms Abha Kumar was a registered nurse working as a nurse unit manager for a residential aged care facility. She transgressed professional boundaries with her elderly patient, Mr Lionel Cox, who was admitted to the facility in July 2015 for respite care.

After Mr Cox was admitted, Ms Kumar learned that he owned his own home, had no family and had not made a will. Ms Kumar purchased a post-office will kit for Mr Cox, which he used to write a will witnessed by two staff members of the facility under Ms Kumar’s direction. Unknown to the witnesses at the time, the will named Ms Kumar as executor and sole beneficiary of Mr Cox’s estate. The value of the estate was over $1,000,000.

Mr Cox died in August 2015 of natural causes. In November 2016, Ms Kumar sold the house she had inherited from Mr Cox for over $1,000,000.

AHPRA received a notification about Ms Kumar in December 2015 and, after investigation, referred her to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) on 26 September 2018.

The tribunal found that Ms Kumar had engaged in professional misconduct that was inconsistent with being a fit and proper person to hold nursing registration, by:

  • over-involving herself in Mr Cox’s affairs
  • failing to manage a conflict of interest in that she obtained a benefit from Mr Cox’s will in circumstances where she knew prior to his death that he intended to name her as a beneficiary, and
  • failing to practise the profession of nursing in a reflective way.

The tribunal disqualified Ms Kumar from applying for registration for five years and also prohibited her from providing any health service in aged or disability care for five years.

In relation to the disqualification period, the tribunal emphasised the need to:

  • protect the public from Ms Kumar, whom it found presents a threat to the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the nursing profession, and to any vulnerable patients who might otherwise be in her care; and
  • show condemnation of the conduct, protect the reputation of the profession and address the need for general deterrence.

The tribunal also emphasised that Ms Kumar will not necessarily be re-registered in five years’ time. It will be a decision for the NMBA as to whether Ms Kumar is fit for registration.

NMBA Chair, Associate Professor Lynette Cusack, said that the NMBA would take action where nurses were benefitting from over-involvement with vulnerable patients.

‘Nurses are among the most trusted professions in our community and the vast majority work with deep integrity and a commitment to providing professional care for vulnerable people. When the actions of an individual let down the standards of the profession, we will take action to keep patients and the community safe from exploitation,’ Associate Professor Cusack said.

For more information please see the tribunal orders.

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Page reviewed 26/09/2019