11 Jul 2019
A Victorian man who had falsely claimed to be a registered nurse was today convicted in court of charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). He was fined $60,000 plus costs.
Magistrate Starvaggi convicted the man in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court in Victoria of four counts of holding himself out as a registered nurse, one count of unlawfully using the protected title ‘registered nurse’ and one count of unlawfully claiming to be authorised or qualified to practise in the nursing profession.
The man had pleaded guilty to these offences under the National Law.
The charges were laid after an AHPRA investigation into allegations that the man had held himself out as a registered nurse while seeking employment, and then practising, as the director of nursing in an aged care facility (a role that required registration as a nurse).
The man has never been registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the NMBA) and does not have any qualifications as a nurse.
He was fined a total of $60,000 and ordered to pay AHPRA’s costs in the amount of $4,000.
The court noted that this was a serious example of this type of offence and that if the new penalties were applicable it would have considered imprisonment.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher welcomed the court’s strong comments and reminds the public, employers and practitioners that there are a number of criminal offences that people can report to AHPRA, including unlawful advertising, unlawful use of protected titles and unlawful claims to registration.
‘We will prosecute offences. We want to be clear that the work we do is paramount to public safety. We make sure high-risk offence complaints, such as this one, are dealt with quickly so the public are protected.
‘Our risk-based approach also means we respond to lower risk offence matters, such as advertising offences. These are dealt with through our advertising compliance strategy which focuses on ensuring registered practitioners are compliant with their regulatory obligations in any advertising,’ he said.
‘The two approaches complement each other, and make sure we address every individual offence concern raised with us to ensure public protection,’ Mr Fletcher added.
Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia Chair, Associate Professor Lynette Cusack, said the man’s actions endangered the public’s confidence in the profession.
‘Integrity and trust are central to the role of a nurse and this individual’s actions endangered this integrity. It is never okay to pass yourself off as a nurse, however, doing so and being in a senior position of influence and responsibility as a director of nursing is a serious abuse of trust. Nurses are always in a position of trust when working in our healthcare services but particularly in this case that trust was abused by someone working with one of our most vulnerable patient groups, our elderly.’
‘He may well have committed further offences if hadn’t been for the diligence of our investigators in AHPRA’s Criminal Offences Unit, who painstakingly investigated the matter to ensure the sentence given was entirely appropriate,’ she said.
Anyone with concerns about whether an individual is registered with a national health profession board can check the register of practitioners maintained by AHPRA or contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.
From 1 July 2019 things have changed
In February 2019, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019 (Qld) was passed by the Queensland Parliament.
The amendments included increased penalties and introduced an imprisonment term of up to three years for offences against the National Law. The penalties will apply to offences committed after 1 July 2019.
The introduction of an imprisonment term means that some offences will automatically become indictable offences in all states and territories (except Western Australia).
• Find out more about how to report an offence.
• For media enquiries: (03) 8708 9200.
• Lodge an online enquiry form.
• For registration enquiries: 1300 419 495 (within Australia) +61 03 9275 9009 (overseas callers).