10 Dec 2019
A tribunal has cancelled a nurse’s registration for professional misconduct and disqualified her from reapplying for two years after she kept money paid by patients for vaccinations.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board (NMBA) referred allegations against Ms Tracey Everett to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) on 26 May 2016. The allegations related to Ms Everett’s work as a practice nurse and onsite nurse immuniser on a casual basis for a travel clinic between March and June 2011. The Board alleged that during this time Ms Everett engaged in dishonest conduct through an intricate and sophisticated scheme involving customers and patients of the practice.
During her employment with the clinic, Ms Everett was required to attend workplaces to administer vaccinations to clients’ employees, primarily for influenza. While attending a number of the client workplaces, Ms Everett administered additional vaccines including Boostrix, Gardasil, Adacel and Hepatitis A and B vaccines. She asked for payment for the additional vaccines to be made either in cash or by direct deposit and kept those payments.
At the time of providing the services, Ms Everett issued a cash receipts to employees in the name of the clinic, with the receipts stamped with the name, address and phone number of her employer. On one occasion when a client required a tax invoice before making payment, Ms Everett issued an invoice in the name of her employer which included her own personal bank account details. When asked by one employee for a receipt to make a Medicare rebate, she told the employee the cost could not be claimed.
In total, Ms Everett received $8,844.30 by way of either cash payments or direct deposits into her own bank account. She was dismissed from her position in July 2011 after a meeting with representatives of her employer, on the basis she had stolen vaccinations and misappropriated payments belonging to the clinic. The Queensland Police Service attended the meeting and located the cash receipt book following the execution of a search warrant at her home.
Ms Everett was never formally charged with any offence in relation to the vaccinations or the alleged misappropriation of funds. Without any admission of wrongdoing, Ms Everett entered into a payment arrangement to pay the funds to her former employer with the full amount repaid in March 2012.
Following the receipt of a notification about Ms Everett’s conduct, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) began an investigation. Throughout Ahpra’s investigation and earlier in the tribunal proceedings, Ms Everett denied the allegations, claiming she had acquired the additional vaccinations in an earlier role and they were not the property of the clinic. On 12 May 2017, in an amended response filed in the tribunal, Ms Everett admitted the allegations and accepted that she had engaged in professional misconduct. Ms Everett claimed that she had a mistaken recollection of events due to the delay of five years in the notification being made, however this was not accepted by the tribunal.
The matter proceeded to a hearing regarding the sanction on 29 November 2017. In its decision dated 29 October 2018, the tribunal did not accept Ms Everett’s submission, finding she only changed her position when confronted with clear evidence of the facts. It noted she showed a lack of remorse or insight into her misconduct, had been repeatedly dishonest and had maintained her elaborate story, which suggested an underlying character flaw that she had not recognised or sought to deal with. The tribunal was not satisfied she was not at risk of reoffending.
It found Ms Everett had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct and cancelled her registration effective from 26 November 2018. The tribunal disqualified her from applying for registration for two years and ordered her to pay the NMBA’s costs of the proceedings.
The decision is published on the Austlii website.