A NURSE who taped over the mouth of a patient wept throughout his court appearance on a charge of assault as the trial heard that the incident was a "moment of complete stupidity".
Sligo District Court heard how Filipino-born Bimbo Paden (39) had been left alone to care for nine patients in an "inequitable and unsafe" hospital, a damning HSE report read to a court has said.
He sobbed during the hearing, with a judge in the case saying he had "broken under the stress".
The father of three has admitted using surgical tape on patient Kevin Quinn at St John's long-term care hospital in Sligo last June.
Mr Quinn (49), of Loughbear, Rathmullen, Ballymote, Co Sligo has been a patient at the hospital requiring 24-hour care since suffering a brain haemorrhage 13 years ago.
In his statement to gardai in which he expressed "deep remorse", the nurse detailed how he started work on the day of the assault at 8.30am.
He had to deal with nine patients, all with multiple needs and most needing to be washed, toileted, dressed and fed.
Others needed to be hoisted out of bed and put into wheelchairs before being taken to other parts of the hospital. Around 90 minutes into his shift, said Paden, Mr Quinn had been shouting and upsetting a patient suffering from the later stages of cancer.
He said he had rubbed Mr Quinn's shoulder and tried to reassure him, but as the noise continued he had "in a moment of complete stupidity" placed surgical tape over his mouth.
Staff nurse Tracey Ryan arrived in the ward a few moments later and he had removed the tape.
"It was on his mouth for a short time only," said Paden in his statement.
"I have nursed in the Rosses unit for six years. I have a great relationship with him (Mr Quinn) and there was no anger or malice on my part."
When he was asked what had happened by another member of staff, he had said "What have I done? What have I done?" and wanted to go home straight away to the Philippines.
The victim's brother, Christy, fought back tears as he told Judge Kevin Kilrane: "When I used to go into him he would love you to touch him, but now when I put my hand on his face he pushes you away.
"It was total abuse of a patient and Kevin is very vulnerable. He is totally incapacitated and he can't fight back and say what happened to him."
The judge asked defence solicitor Mark Mullaney to read the conclusions of an HSE investigation into the incident.
The report found Paden's allocated workload was "inequitable and unsafe".
He had worked in a "risky working environment with little support and inadequate management".
The report found that Paden, who has been in Ireland for 12 years working as a nurse, was "deeply remorseful" but that there could be "no excuse" for what had happened.
The court heard he is suspended from duties and is the subject of a separate investigation by the nursing authorities.
The judge said stress can cloud judgment and that Paden "was under serious stress with inadequate if any support from management".
"It is difficult to see how one nurse can do this and do it in a safe manner," he added.
Judge Kilrane said the case was "too important" not to be given the "greatest consideration", and he asked for a psychiatric report on Paden before he would pass sentence.
He adjourned the case until April 10.