A nurse who forged a prescription for inhalers and sleeping tablets after stealing prescription forms from his workplace has appeared before a Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) fitness-to-practise inquiry.
The man, who cannot be named on direction of the NMBI, admitted to six allegations in relation to the unauthorised taking of forms and medicines from Clonmethan Lodge in Oldtown, Co Dublin, on May 3rd, 2017.
The inquiry heard that the nurse claimed his actions were linked to an addiction to sleeping tablets he developed after being the victim of a violent assault by a resident of the care facility in November 2015.
The nurse said he no longer had any concerns about a relapse into substance abuse as he had stopped taking such medication in 2017 and wanted to be able to continue to work as a nurse. The inquiry heard he resigned from Clonmethan Lodge in February 2020 before a disciplinary process concluded and worked for a nursing agency during the pandemic.
The man admitted taking about 20 prescription forms and various kinds of sleeping tablets without authorisation from Clonmethan Lodge, a residential facility operated by St Joseph’s Intellectual Disability Service.
The issue came to light after a pharmacy assistant questioned the forged prescription form presented by the nurse at Hickey’s Pharmacy on Henry Street in Dublin on May 3rd, 2017. He was subsequently identified from CCTV footage from the pharmacy by Health Service Executive area director of mental health nursing Eileen Kelly, who made a formal complaint to the NMBI.
The nurse’s solicitor, Kristy Kavanagh, accepted her client’s actions represented professional misconduct and a breach of the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for nurses.
The committee also heard the man pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court in February 2020 to forgery of a prescription and four counts of theft and received a suspended nine-month prison sentence.
However, Ms Kavanagh said her client did not accept the claim by the NMBI that he had a medical disability due to a history of hypnotic use disorder.
Expert witness and consultant psychiatrist Colin O’Gara said he met the nurse last July and believed he met the criteria for being classified as having a medical disability. Under cross-examination by Ms Kavanagh, Prof O’Gara accepted that there was no automatic reason why someone with an addiction should not be able to return to work.
Prof O’Gara said the nurse met the definition for having a medical disability but did not display related clinical symptoms. “That’s the difficulty,” Prof O’Gara said.
In evidence, the man, who has worked as a nurse since 1991, said his addiction had affected his relationship with his family and other people as well as having a financial impact.
“I feel I left everyone down,” he remarked. “I’ve learned my lesson. I just want to move on.”
The committee said it would announce its findings in due course.