A man has been fined $60,000 plus costs after he falsely held himself out to be a registered nurse
The Victorian man was convicted of charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency by Magistrate David Starvaggi, in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court.
The charges involved four counts of holding himself out as a registered nurse, one of unlawfully using the protected title ‘registered nurse’ and one count of unlawfully claiming to be authorised or qualified to practise in the nursing profession.
The man had pleaded guilty to these offences under the National Law.
The charges were laid after an AHPRA investigation into allegations that the man had held himself out as a registered nurse while seeking employment, and then practising, as the director of nursing in an aged care facility (a role that required registration as a nurse).
The man has never been registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia and does not have any qualifications as a nurse.
The court noted that this was a serious example of this type of offence and that if the new penalties were applicable it would have considered imprisonment.
Tougher new penalties were introduced from 1 July 2019 for people who pretend to be registered health professionals, including nurses and pharmacists.
For the first time, this means such individuals may be subject to jail time if found guilty.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher welcomed the court’s strong comments and told the public, employers and practitioners that there are a number of criminal offences that people can report to AHPRA, including unlawful advertising, unlawful use of protected titles and unlawful claims to registration.
“We will prosecute offences,” he said.
“We want to be clear that the work we do is paramount to public safety. We make sure high-risk offence complaints, such as this one, are dealt with quickly so the public are protected.
“Our risk-based approach also means we respond to lower risk offence matters, such as advertising offences.
“These are dealt with through our advertising compliance strategy which focuses on ensuring registered practitioners are compliant with their regulatory obligations in any advertising,” he said.
“The two approaches complement each other, and make sure we address every individual offence concern raised with us to ensure public protection,” Mr Fletcher added.
Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia Chair, Associate Professor Lynette Cusack, said the man’s actions endangered the public’s confidence in the profession.
“Integrity and trust are central to the role of a nurse and this individual’s actions endangered this integrity. It is never okay to pass yourself off as a nurse, however, doing so and being in a senior position of influence and responsibility as a director of nursing is a serious abuse of trust.
“Nurses are always in a position of trust when working in our healthcare services but particularly in this case that trust was abused by someone working with one of our most vulnerable patient groups, our elderly.’
“He may well have committed further offences if hadn’t been for the diligence of our investigators in AHPRA’s Criminal Offences Unit, who painstakingly investigated the matter to ensure the sentence given was entirely appropriate,” she said.
The man was fined a total of $60,000 and ordered to pay AHPRA’s costs in the amount of $4,000.
AHPRA says that anybody with concerns about whether an individual is registered with a national health profession board can check the register of practitioners it maintains, or contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.