'I failed,' says nurse who ordered 700 tablets for own use
A hospital nurse who ordered hundreds of Solpadeine tablets for her own use said she is "the biggest failure" and has begged a nursing board not to strike her off.
In emotional testimony, nurse Johanna Leahy said she was "born to be a carer" but that she had let herself, her colleagues and her profession down by her actions and that the past 16 months have been "the worst of her life".
The period in question is from January 2013 to March 2014 when Ms Leahy was working in the coronary care unit at Mercy Hospital in Cork, where she continues to work.
It is alleged the mother-of-two ordered more than 700 pain relief Solpadeine tablets and though Ms Leahy disputed the amount, she conceded that she had acted improperly.
"I engaged in gross misconduct, professional misbehaviour and a degree of dishonesty," she said in tearful testimony.
The inquiry heard the nurse suffered with serious ill-health including problems with her lungs and throat which caused her severe pain and headaches. She had to undergo an operation to remove part of her lung and see specialists.
Ms Leahy also said there was an "emotional element" causing her headaches with the tragic death of her father in a house fire.
She admitted she began to order boxes of Solpadeine for the coronary care unit and carried them with her on her rounds.
Ms Leahy said she took up to 12 tablets per month on some occasions.
Under cross-examination from counsel for the Nursing Board CEO Neasa Bird, she rejected taking up to 30 per month.
The inquiry heard there was no suggestion of drug addiction in the case.
Nurses working in the CCU, who described their colleague as a "compassionate and excellent nurse" told the inquiry they noticed "consistent" orders of the drug and raised the issue with management.
At a meeting, nurse Leahy admitted she had been ordering the drug.
"I took it because of the pain. I thought it was a stock item but I quickly realised it wasn't," she said. "I didn't want to let my patients down, I didn't want to let my colleagues down."
She added:" I didn't want to be a failure and now I am the biggest failure."
Under questioning from Edward Mathews, representing Ms Leahy, she explained how she has undertaken courses in how to deal with stress management.
She begged the committee not to erase her registration as a nurse. "I can only say I'm sorry. Forgive me. I have a husband and two children, I have a mortgage to pay," she said.
The committee will issue a finding in due course.