12 May 2022
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) has successfully prosecuted former registered nurse, Mr Alexis Travero Alvarez for four charges of holding himself out as a registered nurse after he had surrendered his registration.
After being found guilty of all four charges at a trial on 8 April, today Mr Alvarez was sentenced in the Magistrates Court of Victoria at Moorabbin. He was sentenced to a three year adjourned undertaking, with conditions that he pay $1000 to the court fund and be of good behaviour. He was also ordered to pay $500 of Ahpra’s legal costs.
In October 2019, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) proposed to suspend Mr Alvarez’s registration as a nurse on public interest grounds. The NMBA had been aware that he had not disclosed that he had been convicted of three charges under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) of charging and receiving fees as a migration agent, when he was not registered as a migration agent.
When the NMBA invited Mr Alvarez to provide a response to its proposal to suspend his registration as a nurse, Mr Alvarez surrendered his registration instead.
Mr Alvarez did not tell his nursing agency employer that he had surrendered his registration. Instead, he continued to accept and work four shifts as a registered nurse in the Acute Cardiac Unit of a Melbourne private hospital between 14 and 21 October 2019. His employer only discovered that he was no longer registered following routine enquiries by Ahpra staff on 24 October, hours before he was due to start another shift. Mr Alvarez’s employment was then immediately terminated.
Mr Alvarez denied the allegations, and the matter proceeded as a trial in the Moorabbin Magistrates Court on 8 April 2022. Mr Alvarez claimed that despite having completed the surrender form himself by hand he believed his surrender of registration wasn’t due to take effect until later in the month, as he had believed he had written ‘24/10/2019’. He also claimed that he misunderstood a letter he received from Ahpra that confirmed his surrender of registration. The result, Mr Alvarez argued, was that he believed he was still registered when he worked the four shifts in October.
At the trial Magistrate Lee rejected these submissions. He said that Mr Alvarez’s interpretation of Ahpra’s letter to him ‘could not be reasonable’ and he did not accept that Mr Alvarez’s belief that his registration would continue until 24 October 2019 was genuine. Ultimately Magistrate Lee said that he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mr Alvarez knew that he was not registered when he attended the shifts and that he was guilty of knowingly holding himself out as a registered nurse in breach of section 116 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
Ahpra is considering the sentence and its next steps.
Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher, said: ‘It is our role to protect the public. This means we will take action against anyone who practises as a health practitioner when not registered.’
Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia Chair, Adjunct Professor Veronica Casey AM, said: ‘Continuing to practise after knowingly surrendering your registration is unacceptable. Reckless behaviour like this erodes public trust and confidence in nurses and midwives.’
Anyone with concerns about whether an individual is registered can check the online Register of practitioners maintained by Ahpra or call 1300 419 495.