Former nurse convicted for working in aged care while suspended

23 Dec 2019

A South Australian woman who continued to work as a nurse in aged care after her registration was suspended, was today convicted in the Magistrates Court of South Australia of all 66 charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra).

Magistrate Semmens convicted Ms Heaft and imposed a bond to be of good behaviour for a period of three years. His Honour ordered her to pay Ahpra’s prosecution costs of $1,100 and imposed the Victims of Crime Levy. Ms Heaft will pay a total of $10,560 for the Victims of Crime Levy.

In October, Ms Heaft pleaded guilty to charges of holding herself out as a registered nurse in breach of section 116 of the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

The charges relate to Ms Heaft presenting herself and working as a registered nurse at a number of aged care facilities around Adelaide between 23 February and 17 June 2018 despite her registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) being suspended.

Ms Heaft’s registration was suspended by the NMBA on 29 January 2018 to protect the health or safety of the public. On 18 June 2019 she was disqualified from applying for registration as a nurse for 25 years by the South Australian Health Practitioners Tribunal.  She was also permanently prohibited from providing nursing services.

In sentencing Ms Heaft, Magistrate Semmens said: ‘These charges are extremely serious. The public and the community need to have confidence in the systems of accreditation and certification for all nurses and healthcare workers in South Australia. This offending was deliberate and went on for some time. It was executed by you in the full knowledge that you should not have been in a workplace involving the care of people in the healthcare system.

The magistrate also said: ‘If I could, I would jail you today’.

‘Today’s outcome is another example of practitioner regulation at work. Protecting the public is our priority and we welcome the court’s decision,’ Ahpra CEO Martin Fletcher said.

NMBA Chair, Associate Professor Lynette Cusack said: ‘This is a good outcome and reflects the Board’s zero tolerance for those pretending to be registered. The public puts great trust in the profession of nursing and this outcome helps to maintain that trust.’

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).

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Page reviewed 23/12/2019