05 Dec 2023
A South Australian tribunal has found a nurse who grabbed a patient by the hair, guilty of professional misconduct and disqualified him from re-registration for two years.
On 19 September 2022, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (the Board) referred registered nurse Mr Ronald Charles Combe to the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the tribunal) for grabbing a hospital inpatient by the hair, threatening her with seclusion, and insulting and rude behaviour towards the patient.
On 21 May 2019, the patient who was in a vulnerable state and suffering from mental illness, was in the lounge room of the unit when Mr Combe was working the overnight shift. During the night, the patient woke up upset and called out. Another practitioner went to check on the patient but she did not go back to sleep. Mr Combe then entered the room, spoke in raised tones to the patient to the effect that he would put her in seclusion or that she could sleep in seclusion and grabbed her by her hair.
In making its decision, the tribunal placed weight on the Progress Note made by the other practitioner involved in the care of the patient (made shortly after the incident) and the statement of the patient. The tribunal considered these two statements to be very similar in nature and were satisfied they were made independently of each other.
The tribunal, based on the evidence, was satisfied Mr Combe did threaten the patient with ‘going to seclusion’ and grabbed the patient by her hair. It was not satisfied that he verbally abused the patient and referred to her as a ‘degenerate.’ The tribunal found Mr Combe’s conduct to meet the threshold of professional misconduct, was substantially below the standard expected of a registered nurse and not consistent with being a fit and proper person to hold registration. The tribunal ordered Mr Combe be reprimanded, disqualified for two years from reapplying for registration, prohibited from working in any health service (for the same period) and ordered that he pay the Board’s costs.
Mr Combe is not currently working and given his age, the tribunal accepted that he is unlikely to ever seek registration as a nurse again.
Read the tribunal's full decision on the AustLII website.