Nurse who put sex cases at risk could face fine or jail
The nurse who has left up to 25 sexual assault cases in legal jeopardy could face a fine or imprisonment if prosecuted for continuing to work while unregistered, it emerged last night.
The nurse, who took forensic evidence from victims at the Sexual Assault Treatment Unit in Letterkenny, Co Donegal, failed to renew her €88 a year registration with her regulatory body, An Bord Altranais, since 2009.
Although the Health Service Executive (HSE) was informed she was not registered, she continued to work illegally -- leaving the assault cases in danger of a court challenge if gardai bring charges.
A spokesperson for An Bord Altranais said last night it had no power to prevent her coming back permanently to the register once she pays her fee.
However, a nurse who continues to work while not on the register is doing so illegally and could be prosecuted under Section 49 of the Nurses Act, carrying a possible fine of more than €1,000 or 12 months jail, or both, if convicted.
The regulatory body said it was having to erase the names of around 800 nurses a year for non-payment of fees and while it notified the nurse's employer when the sanction was taken it may not have been informed of all work addresses.
The HSE confirmed it was told by An Bord Altranais in 2009 that the nurse was not registered and has now began a review to find out why the information was not given to Letterkenny hospital.
It has appointed Rosemary Ryan, risk manager at the Irish Public Bodies, to chair the investigation and Mary McCarthy, former chief nursing officer at the Department of Health.
Ellen O'Malley-Dunlop, head of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said there were six sexual-assault unit treatment centres across the country and she appealed to assault victims not to be deterred from seeking help.
Dr Maeve Eogan, the national medical director of the units, said all 25 victims had been informed of the blunder and offered counselling.
She regretted the upset caused after they had made the brave and difficult decision to come forward.
An Bord Altranais said it was necessary for every working nurse to maintain their registration to protect the public.
There are currently 67,000 nurses on the active register and another 23,000 who are not working here or abroad on the inactive register.
A written notice is sent to each nurse on the register annually advising them of the annual payment required.
If nothing happens, further reminders are sent. Failing a response to these notices, the process of erasing the nurse's name from the register is started.
Each year the names of around 800 nurses are removed from the register in this way. Each person on the list is notified by letter that they are no longer registered to practice.