29 Jun 2023
A tribunal has cancelled an enrolled nurse’s registration after he engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a vulnerable patient.
Content warning: This article discusses suicide and some readers may find this article distressing. If you are experiencing distress, please visit the NM Support website or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help.
In January 2016, Mr Alberto Yabut was providing care to a returning mental health patient (P1) at a private hospital. Mr Yabut knew P1 was a vulnerable patient. Shortly before P1 was due to leave the hospital, Mr Yabut obtained her phone number from her clinical file and called her. On the night of her discharge, he again called P1 and asked her to go out with him.
Mr Yabut and P1 had an intimate relationship, went on dates and communicated via text where he shared confidential information about other patients and practitioners at the hospital. P1 sought to end the relationship in early April 2016 then attempted an overdose of her prescription medication and was re-admitted.
P1’s psychiatrist requested that she only be treated by female nurses during this admission, however he continued contact, visiting her room, and sending her text messages to rekindle the relationship. P1 attempted a second overdose after taking a leave day to be with Mr Yabut.
After P1 was discharged he visited her at her home. P1’s mental state again deteriorated, leading to her fourth admission in late May 2016 where she disclosed the relationship with Mr Yabut to a social worker, this resulted in the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) suspending Mr Yabut’s registration and referring him to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal).
The Tribunal found that Mr Yabut had engaged in a way that constitutes professional misconduct and ordered that he:
The Tribunal agreed that Mr Yabut’s conduct was extremely serious when appropriate regard is paid to Ms P1’s vulnerabilities however noted, 'Mr Yabut’s position as an enrolled nurse, unfamiliar with the mental health environment and the impact that engaging in a relationship with a vulnerable patient may have on that patient’s mental health, sets his conduct apart from the most egregious cases, we accept that the conduct was nevertheless extremely serious given the potential, and actual, detrimental impact that his conduct in pursuing and maintaining that relationship … had on P1’s mental health.’
The Tribunal’s decision was made on 19 September 2022 and the decision is available on the Austlii website.