07 Jan 2021
A tribunal has disqualified a former nurse for professional misconduct that included falsifying training certificates and altering patient records.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) referred Tracy Paterson to the former South Australian Health Practitioners Tribunal for conduct it alleged was serious professional misconduct involving:
The matter was subsequently transferred to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) in August 2019 when the former tribunal was dissolved and its jurisdiction transferred.
In late 2014, Ms Paterson provided her employer with two certificates as evidence that she had completed training in manual handling and first aid. Both certificates were found to be false and a notification was made to the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra). She subsequently provided Ahpra with two ‘current’ certificates which, upon investigation, were also found to be false.
A second notification was made to Ahpra in 2015 regarding Ms Paterson’s conduct between 2013 and 2015, while she was employed as an enrolled nurse at a general medical centre. This conduct related to the alleged altering or making of misleading or untrue notes in the records of 17 patients, including children and adults receiving vaccinations, so that the patient notes were unclear as to what treatment had been given and what immunisations had been administered.
The tribunal found that some changes were motivated by Ms Paterson’s desire to cover up errors she had made and to protect herself from possible allegations. Other changes had no clear motive or reason for them.
The tribunal was also satisfied that on four occasions in 2015, Ms Paterson had, after gaining access to the computer and log-in of different medical practitioners, created and printed prescriptions for the Schedule 4 drug phentermine (Duromine) under different alias names for her own use. These prescriptions were not created or authorised by the respective practitioners in whose names they were created and Ms Paterson had no authority to create any of these prescriptions.
Around this time, Ms Paterson used the computer and log-in of a locum medical practitioner to create a Medicare Health Care Plan for herself in another name. Ms Paterson forged the practitioner’s signature on the plan and an accompanying letter. This conduct helped her to gain access to a government funded course of treatment.
In its decision dated 15 April 2020, the tribunal said it had no doubt that Ms Paterson’s conduct amounted to serious professional misconduct. It said she had demonstrated in various ways, and over an extended period of time, that she has serious character flaws inconsistent with the requirements of a registered health practitioner.
The tribunal ordered that Ms Paterson be reprimanded and she was disqualified from applying for registration as a registered health practitioner for 15 years. She was also prohibited from providing any health service for 15 years.
Ms Paterson, who surrendered her registration in January 2018, was ordered to pay the Board’s costs.
The full decision is published on the AustLII website.