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- Unreported Judgment
QUEENSLAND CIVIL AND ADMINISTRATIVE TRIBUNAL
Health Ombudsman v Wooderson  QCAT 327
maree elizabeth wooderson
Occupational regulation matters
22 October 2019 (ex tempore)
22 October 2019
Judge Allen QC, Deputy President
Ms J Felton
Mr J McNab
Dr A Tuckett
PROFESSIONS AND TRADES – HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS – NURSES – DISCPLINARY PROCEEDINGS – where the applicant instituted disciplinary proceedings against the respondent in relation to conduct that involved the respondent stealing painkilling medication from patients at the hospital where she was employed, resulting in convictions for stealing and possessing a dangerous drug – where the respondent has a relevant history involving similar conduct – where the respondent was subject to an interim prohibition order – where the respondent surrendered her registration – where the matter has proceeded expeditiously assisted by the respondent’s cooperation – where the respondent has undertaken steps towards rehabilitation – where the applicant accepts that the respondent is remorseful as evidenced by the entry of timely pleas of guilty in the criminal proceedings – where the parties agree as to the facts – where the parties agree as to the appropriate sanction – whether sanction proposed is appropriate
Health Ombudsman Act 2013 (Qld), s 103, 104, s 107
Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Qld), s 5
Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), s 100
Medical Board of Australia v Fitzgerald  QCAT 425
Medical Board of Australia v Martin  QCAT 376
Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v Faulkner  QCAT 141
Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia v Faulkner  QCAT 97
S Robb instructed by the Director of Proceedings, on behalf of the Health Ombudsman
REASONS FOR DECISION
- The Director of Proceedings on behalf of the Health Ombudsman (“the applicant”) has referred a complaint about Maree Elizabeth Wooderson (“the respondent”) to the Tribunal pursuant to sections 103(1)(a) and 104 of the Health Ombudsman Act 2013 (Qld) (“HO Act”).
- The respondent was born on 21 March 1964 and is currently 55 years of age, and was 53 when the conduct the subject of the referral occurred. The respondent was first registered as an enrolled nurse in 1992.
- Some matters which do not form part of the conduct referred to the Tribunal, but provide necessary context, are as follows.
- The respondent was employed as an endorsed enrolled nurse at a Brisbane public hospital from 2000 to 19 January 2015.
- On 15 January 2015, the respondent was observed by another nurse to go into a medication room of the hospital and put a box in her pocket. She later admitted that she had taken a blood pressure tablet because she had forgotten to bring hers and had a headache. The observations of the other nurse were inconsistent with such explanation. The respondent later admitted to taking a single blood pressure tablet and having done so on previous occasions with permission and that this was the first time she had done so without permission. However, a security report identified that the respondent had access to the medication room on multiple occasions with some of those occurring outside of her hours of work. The respondent was invited to attend a meeting with her manager and director but, on 19 January 2015, tendered her resignation, effective immediately, and declined such meeting.
- The respondent was working as an endorsed enrolled nurse for a nursing agency on 14 May 2016 when concerns were raised regarding her behaviour and speech during work. The respondent underwent a drug and alcohol test on 17 May 2016 and tested positive for benzodiazepine and opioid. The respondent was terminated from her employment.
- The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (“the Board”) required the respondent to undergo a health assessment and, as a result of that health assessment, on 17 November 2016 decided to suspend the respondent’s registration.
- The respondent was still registered as an endorsed enrolled nurse, but with such registration suspended, and was working in an unregistered capacity as a specimen collector for pathology services provided at a Brisbane private hospital when the conduct, the subject of the referral, occurred.
- The conduct involved the respondent stealing painkilling medication from patients at the hospital and resulted in the respondent being charged with four counts of stealing and one count of possession of a dangerous drug, such offences allegedly occurring in May and June 2017.
- On 4 July 2017, the respondent pleaded guilty to those offences in the Magistrates Court at Brisbane. She was made subject to a two year probation order with conditions for drug testing and treatment. No convictions were recorded.
- The parties both submit and the Tribunal accepts that such conduct is professional misconduct as defined by section 5 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Qld).
- In relation to sanction, the parties jointly submit that the appropriate order is that the respondent be reprimanded pursuant to section 107(3)(a) of the HO Act.
- The Tribunal ought not depart from an agreed position as to sanction, unless it falls outside of a permissible range. A reprimand is not a trivial penalty, and amounts to a public denunciation of the respondent’s conduct, recorded on a public register. The respondent’s failure to uphold professional standards deserves such denunciation.
- In light of the parties’ joint submissions and the following considerations, the Tribunal accepts that the proposed orders as to sanction are appropriate to meet the protective purposes of sanction.
- On 22 July 2017, the respondent advised the Board that she wishes to surrender her registration and she has since not been registered as a nurse. From 28 July 2017 until 16 October 2019, the respondent was subject to an interim prohibition order made by the applicant which prohibited her from providing any health service, paid or unpaid, in a clinical or non-clinical capacity.
- The respondent’s conduct did not, in fact, it seems, cause harm to any person and, whilst stealing another person’s medication may potentially deprive that person of medication that they need, it does not appear that the individuals involved were, in fact, deprived of specific doses of medication as a result of the respondent’s conduct.
- The applicant acknowledges that the respondent’s remorse and insight may be inferred from her pleas of guilty to the criminal charges and by her conduct in expediting the resolution of this referral by agreeing to the facts, evidence and sanction, and by her acceptance that her conduct amounts to professional misconduct.
- The respondent has been engaged in treatment for the past two years to address her addiction and mental health issues. It appears that the respondent has been compliant with the conditions of her probation order.
- In all the circumstances, the Tribunal is satisfied that no orders for further prohibition from providing health services are necessary for protection of the public and that the orders for sanction proposed by the parties are appropriate.
- Both parties have submitted that the usual position with respect to costs pursuant to section 100 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld) should apply, and that should be reflected in the orders of the Tribunal.
- Accordingly, the Tribunal orders as follows:
- Pursuant to section 107(2)(b)(iii) of the Health Ombudsman Act 2009 (Qld), the Tribunal decides that the respondent has behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct.
- Pursuant to section 107(3)(a) of the Health Ombudsman Act 2009 (Qld), the respondent is reprimanded.
- Pursuant to section 100 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 (Qld), each party must bear the party’s own costs for the proceeding.
- Published Case Name:
Health Ombudsman v Maree Elizabeth Wooderson
- Shortened Case Name:
Health Ombudsman v Wooderson
 QCAT 327
22 Oct 2019