27 Sep 2023
A South Australian woman has become the first Australian sent to jail for pretending to be a registered health practitioner.
Ms Alison Jane Mibus has never been registered as a nurse and was on Tuesday convicted by the South Australian Magistrates’ Court for the second time for falsely claiming to be a registered practitioner.
She was sentenced to four months and 28 days imprisonment in relation to five charges of holding herself out as a registered nurse, and one charge of claiming to be qualified to practise as a nurse, in breach of section 116 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009.
This is the most serious sentence ever imposed under the National Law and the first sentence leading to imprisonment in jail.
Ahpra CEO, Mr Martin Fletcher said the landmark case sent a strong message to the community.
‘The nurse-patient relationship requires the utmost trust and anyone who abuses that faith should face the full consequences of their actions,’ Mr Fletcher said.
‘While this is a strong outcome, it is disappointing this individual didn’t learn her lesson last time. You cannot lie to the public that you are a registered health practitioner; we will prosecute you.
‘Hopefully this outcome is the final deterrent.’
In January 2019, Ms Mibus applied for a job at as practice manager at a medical clinic. Although the role did not require Ms Mibus to be registered as a nurse, in her application she falsely claimed to be a registered nurse with years of nursing experience which set her apart from other applicants and ensured she got the job.
During her employment from March 2020 to September 2020 Ms Mibus continued her ruse. In multiple emails to a range of people, including SA Health, Ms Mibus represented herself as a registered nurse, and one colleague allowed Ms Mibus to administer vaccinations to his parents and himself.
Ms Mibus also lied to colleagues and told them she was undertaking clinical nursing shifts at another medical centre so that she could ‘maintain [my] registration.’
During an additional internal job application Ms Mibus again falsely claimed to have nursing registration and qualifications
Ms Mibius’ deception was only realised after she resigned from her position and her employer reported their concerns to Ahpra.
This is the second time Ms Mibus has been prosecuted by Ahpra for claiming to be a registered nurse. In February 2020, Ms Mibus was sentenced on three counts of holding herself out to be a registered nurse by administering vaccines and treating patients while employed as a practice manager at a different medical centre during 2017. She was fined $10,500 for that offending by Magistrate Fisher.
On Tuesday, Magistrate Dixon noted that the previous penalty did not achieve the desired effect, and instead Ms Mibus continued to hold herself out as a nurse in identical offending to a new employer.
At the time of Ms Mibus’ earlier offending the maximum penalty for the offence was a $30,000 fine, however parliaments around Australia (other than WA) have since increased the maximum penalty to a fine of $60,000, three years imprisonment, or both.
In sentencing, Magistrate Dixon said that Ms Mibus’ offending had to be viewed seriously for the protection and safety of the community. While taking into account her personal circumstances, health and medical reports, the magistrate stated that he did not consider home detention appropriate, as the offending was ‘too serious and it would send the wrong message to the community.’
'Parliament has indicated that this type of offending is so serious that the court should have the option of imprisonment where appropriate … the severity of these penalties is intended to deter people from holding out as health practitioners and performing procedures when they have no such qualifications,’ Magistrate Dixon said.
‘Given the seriousness of the offending and the potential risk to the community, given it has the potential to undermine the confidence in the registration process for nurses, and given the offending began when (Ms Mibus) was before the court for identical offending and continued … the only appropriate penalty is imprisonment.’
To recognise her plea of guilty Ms Mibus’ term of imprisonment was reduced from seven months to four months and 28 days. While His Honour was not prepared to wholly suspend the sentence, Magistrate Dixon ordered Ms Mibus be released after one month, as well as ordering her to pay Ahpra’s legal costs in the sum of $1,628.
Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia Chair Adjunct Professor Veronica Casey AM, said everyone should pay attention to this outcome.
‘Being able to call yourself a nurse in Australia means something, and for someone to knowingly represent themselves as one to secure a job not only discredits the hard work and commitment of the profession, but is a criminal offence,’ she said.
‘Employers are also reminded to ensure their employees are registered when they say they are and are not misleading patients, colleagues or authorities. It is putting the public at risk of harm.’
Anyone with concerns about whether an individual is registered can check the online Register of practitioners maintained by Ahpra or call 1300 419 495.