Sunday 25 August 2019

Nurse who 'plundered' thousands from intellectually disabled woman's account is struck off

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Tim Healy

A nurse who used an intellectually disabled woman's ATM card to make unauthorised withdrawals totalling some €2,520 for her own use has been struck off the nursing register.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, said he entirely agreed that the conduct of Geraldine Mary McCarville was infamous and disgraceful in a professional respect and "completely alien" to all the nursing profession stands for.

He noted Ms McCarville, aged in her 60s, had admitted the misconduct and apologised, made full repayment to the service user involved, and had offered to voluntarily remove her name from the register.

That voluntary removal was not possible under the Nursing Acts as a fitness-to-practice inquiry was under way at the time.

He was also told the nurse was suffering from a relevant medical disability, in that she was being treated for alcohol dependency and depression and had an otherwise clear record in some 40 years' of service.

The strike-off order was sought by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland over findings of professional misconduct made by a fitness-to-practice committee last May.

The admitted conduct amounted to a serious falling short of the standards expected of a nurse, was infamous and disgraceful in a professional respect and amounted to an abuse of trust in the care of a vulnerable patient.

The Committee found that - between September 2015 and October 2016 - Ms McCarville made 13 withdrawals totalling €2,520 from a bank account belonging to a service user of Cavan and Monaghan Disability Services without that user's authorisation and consent.

It also found Ms McCarville kept the money for her own use and benefit and had represented to a staff nurse she had withdrawn the money on behalf of the service user's brother when she knew that was untrue.

It further found she suffers from a relevant medical disability, alcohol dependence and depression, which may impair her ability to practise nursing.

The findings were made on the basis of her own admissions and evidence to the inquiry.

The Board agreed with the Committee the admitted conduct amounted to a serious falling short of the standards expected of a nurse, was infamous and disgraceful in a professional respect and amounted to an abuse of trust in the care of a vulnerable patient.

The Board also agreed the nurse's registration should be cancelled and applied on Monday for that order after Ms McCarville did not appeal.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said it was "entirely unacceptable" that a vulnerable person would have their assets "plundered in this way".

The Committee had considered various mitigating factors, including the nurse having made admissions at the earliest opportunity, her apology and full restitution to the service user, her relevant medical disability and clear record in some 40 years of service. The breach was however considered "so grave" it was considered the nurse's registration must be cancelled.

He saw "no good reason" to depart from that recommendation and would make that order, the judge said.

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