30 Mar 2022
A woman who worked as a registered nurse at a hospital and an aged care residence in Sydney when she was not registered was yesterday convicted after pleading guilty in the Downing Centre Local Court of New South Wales following charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).
At the time of the offending, Brenda Pichinte Solis had never been registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA). She had unsuccessfully applied for registration several times and had been advised by Ahpra that she was not eligible because she did not meet all the registration requirements at the time.
Despite knowing she was unregistered, Ms Pichinte Solis accepted and worked in two separate jobs as a registered nurse. She worked 10 shifts between 2 September 2019 and 30 September 2019 at a residential aged care facility, which terminated her employment when it discovered she was not registered. Despite this, she still went on to work 157 shifts as a nurse in the Graduate Nurse Program at a private Sydney hospital between 29 October 2019 and 6 October 2020, until the hospital discovered she was not registered and terminated her employment.
In December 2021 Ahpra charged Ms Pichinte Solis with two counts of holding herself out as being registered and three counts of using the initials ‘RN’ in various documents while working to indicate that she was a registered nurse, in breach of section 116 of the National Law.
In 2021 Ms Pichinte Solis went on to meet the registration requirements, including the Criminal history registration standard, and was granted registration as a nurse. She is currently listed on the online national Register of practitioners.
On 29 March 2022, Ms Pichinte Solis pleaded guilty to all charges. In relation to the 10 shifts worked at the aged care facility she was fined $3,300 and had a 12-month Community Corrections Order imposed. In relation to the 157 shifts worked at the private hospital the court imposed a seven-month sentence of imprisonment, to be served in the community by way of Intensive Corrections Order. In relation to the three counts of using the initials ‘RN’ she was fined $1,100 per count. She was also ordered to pay Ahpra’s legal costs of $6,529.60.
Magistrate Greenwood commented that: ‘No penalty other than imprisonment is appropriate’, noting that Ms Pichinte Solis was dealing with ‘the most vulnerable people in aged care’ and ‘this is not a technical breach … every person expects that every person holding themselves out as health practitioners have strictly complied with the necessary provisions … the offender showed disregard for regulation laws.’
Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said: ‘To present yourself as being a registered health practitioner when you are not is a gross violation of the public’s trust. We will not hesitate to prosecute anyone who falsely claims to be registered.’
NMBA Chair, Adjunct Professor Veronica Casey AM, welcomed the outcome.
‘We hope this outcome will act as a deterrent to anyone considering similar behaviour.
‘It is crucial for the protection of the public that anyone claiming to be, or practising as a registered nurse, is registered with the NMBA. Our role ensuring that only practitioners who have the qualifications and skills required to practise safely are registered is just one of the checks and balances of our health system.’
Health practitioners are required to disclose any changes in their criminal history to the relevant National Board. The Board considers whether any of a health practitioner’s criminal history is relevant to the practice of their profession under the National Law to ensure that only those who are suitable and safe to practise are granted registration in Australia. In NSW, contraventions of the National Law, criminal convictions and criminal findings can also be considered by the Health Care Complaints Commission under Part 8 of the National Law (as in force in NSW) as potential unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct.
Anyone with concerns about the registration of a practitioner can contact Ahpra on 1300 419 495. Employers are reminded to check the Register of practitioners before allowing health practitioners to start work.