27 Oct 2020
A tribunal has suspended a registered nurse’s registration for three months for professional misconduct after he dragged an elderly patient who had been diagnosed with dementia to her room.
On 29 May 2019, Mr Gary Anderson was working as a nurse unit manager when an incident occurred with an elderly patient with dementia. The patient was loitering near an entrance, as she frequently did because she wished to leave the ward and go home. Mr Anderson sought to move the patient to her room, so that she would not be in the way of the medical emergency team who needed to assist another patient.
Mr Anderson attempted to redirect the patient down the corridor, using some physical force. The patient resisted, including by attempting to hit Mr Anderson. When they entered the gym area, the patient grabbed hold of a stair rail. Mr Anderson attempted to remove her hands from the rail and the patient slid to the floor.
Mr Anderson then dragged the patient by her arms or wrists for a distance of approximately 10 metres from the gym area to her room. He did so against the patient’s will and regardless of her protests and screams for help. A walking frame was knocked over as he dragged the patient. Mr Anderson’s actions were witnessed by other clients and family members, as well as other staff. As a result of the incident, the patient was distressed and crying and complaining of sore wrists.
On 7 May 2020, Mr Anderson’s employment was terminated as a result of this conduct. On 20 May 2020, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) took immediate action to suspend Mr Anderson’s registration. The NMBA referred Mr Anderson to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (tribunal).
The tribunal found that Mr Anderson’s conduct was totally unnecessary because the medical emergency team simply entered the ward through another way. The tribunal noted it was fortunate that more serious injury was not caused.
The tribunal noted that Mr Anderson’s conduct was entirely out of character and probably contributed to in a significant way by extreme stressors in the respondent’s life, including treatment for an aggressive cancer. The tribunal emphasised, however, that these stressors cannot in any way excuse the abuse of an elderly and vulnerable patient. The tribunal noted that there is (appropriately) great concern in our community about abuse of the elderly and the vulnerable. Such conduct by health professionals cannot be tolerated, no matter what provocation may occur or what the background circumstances may be.
The tribunal found that Mr Anderson’s behaviour amounted to serious professional misconduct and reprimanded him. The tribunal ordered that Mr Anderson’s registration be suspended for a further period of three months and a condition be imposed on his registration requiring that he successfully complete an education program in relation to ethics and the management of challenging behaviours. The tribunal also ordered that Mr Anderson pay an agreed sum of $2,000 as a contribution towards the NMBA’s costs.
The tribunal’s decision is published on the Austlii website.