Friday 20 April 2018

Nurse facing allegations relating to possession of crystal meth ordered Sudafed using colleague's names, disciplinary inquiry told

Liz Farsaci

A nurse facing allegations relating to the possession of crystal meth ordered Sudafed using the names of a number of his colleagues, a disciplinary inquiry heard today.

John Benedict Butalid de Lara, of Ballyfermot, who worked as a staff nurse at the Royal Hospital Donnybrook from 2003 until 2014, is facing allegations relating to the possession of crystal meth, and of ordering Sudafed using the names of several colleagues.

The ongoing disciplinary inquiry at the Nursing Board headquarters in Blackrock, Co. Dublin heard in December that an ingredient in Sudafed, pseudoephedrine, can be used in the making of crystal meth.

Today, clinical nurse manager Anne Dooley, who worked with Mr. de Lara at the Royal Hospital Donnybrook for eight years, said she first heard about Mr. de Lara, 45, ordering Sudafed in other people’s names when a health care assistant approached her about the matter.

Ms. Dooley met with Mr. de Lara on 30 June 2013 to discuss the matter. Mr. de Lara admitted that he had ordered the medication in the health care assistant’s name, as he had wanted to send some Sudafed home to the Philippines, where he is from originally.

A year later, in 2014, Ms. Dooley was told of a newspaper article reporting that Mr. de Lara had appeared in court over charges in relation to possession of crystal meth.

‘I was quite shocked,’ said Ms. Dooley.

Ms. Dooley said she had never had an issue before with Mr. de Lara’s work performance. ‘John was a good nurse,’ Ms. Dooley told the fitness to practice inquiry.

Mr. de Lara’s legal representative, Barrister John McGuigan, told the inquiry that his client admits to ordering Sudafed in other people’s names, so as to send it to the Philippines. He argued it was within the knowledge of the hospital that Sudafed had been ordered in at least two people’s names – and that the hospital dealt with the issue.

Dr. Katherine Patterson, the pharmacist for the Abbey Healthcare pharmacy in the Royal Hospital Donnybrook, told the inquiry that she became concerned about a spike in the number of orders for Sudafed in May 2013.

In particular, ‘it was a significant cause for concern for me’ that seven orders for Sudafed were placed on 23 May 2013.

Her main concern, she said, was regarding ‘rebound congestion’, a potential side effect that can occur when Sudafed is used for more than one week.

However, in the back of her mind, there were also concerns regarding the other issues relating to Sudafed, namely, the potential use in the production of crystal meth.

She said that while people may now be aware of the potential connection between Sudafed and crystal meth, thanks to certain television dramas, that connection was ‘only on the periphery of people’s knowledge’ in Ireland in 2013.

Pharmacy technician Kae Torralba told the inquiry that Mr. de Lara attempted to place orders for himself and on behalf of other colleagues on three occasions in May 2013.

On the third occasion, Ms. Torralba cautioned Mr. de Lara that he could not order any more Sudafed in his name, as he had already placed two orders that month. He then placed seven orders for Sudafed in the names of other colleagues.

Ms. Torralba said Mr. de Lara told her he wanted to send some Sudafed back to the Philippines with someone who was travelling there.

Ms. Torralba then advised Mr. de Lara that Sudafed was readily available in the Philippines, at a reasonable cost.

Ronan Kennedy, legal representative for the CEO of the Nursing Board, asked Ms. Torralba, ‘Can you think of any reason why a person would order Sudafed here and then send it to the Philippines?’

‘No,’ Ms. Torralba answered.

Several other former colleagues told the inquiry they had not placed orders for Sudafed in May 2013, and had not asked anyone to order the decongestant on their behalf.

Several said they were surprised to find out that their names had been used to order Sudafed.

Care assistant Elena Tanig insisted that she would never let anyone order medications in her name. Referring to Mr. de Lara, she said: ‘He is a good nurse, a good friend and good for the patients.

‘I didn’t expect this would happen.  I was really shocked.’

Last December, the inquiry heard that on 31 March 2014 Mr. de Lara was arrested by An Garda Siochana following a search of a flat on Marlborough Road in Donnybrook.

During the search, Mr. de Lara arrived at the flat and put a bag of something into his mouth, which he later spat out at the request of a garda. The substance in the bag was later identified as just over 2.4 grams of crystal meth.

The following day, Mr. de Lara was charged with possession of a controlled drug, namely methamphetamine.

The case was heard before the district court, where the charges against Mr. de Lara were dismissed, after he paid €1,000 to a charity.

The Royal Hospital Donnybrook, just off Morehampton Road, provides rehabilitation services primarily for elderly people, with approximately 160 places available for both long-term and short-term patients.

The inquiry continues on Friday.

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