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Assault of rest home resident (07HDC20395)
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(07HDC20395, 28 August
Registered nurse ~ Rest home ~ Assault ~ Vicarious liability
~ Rights 4(2), 4(4)
The Nursing Council of New Zealand complained about the care
provided to an elderly woman in a rest home by a registered nurse.
A caregiver witnessed the registered nurse shouting at and slapping
the woman while he was dressing a skin-tear on her arm. The
caregiver reported the incident to her supervisors. Following an
internal investigation, the registered nurse was dismissed and the
Nursing Council of New Zealand was advised.
Acting in this way towards an elderly and vulnerable patient is
a very serious departure from professional standards. The
registered nurse also failed to follow correct procedure and did
not document either the skin-tear or the woman's subsequent
agitation, and was held to have breached Right 4(2).
It was also held that the rest home did not provide the woman
with services that minimised potential harm, breaching Right 4(4).
The rest home management acknowledged that there were concerns
about the registered nurse but these concerns were not formally
investigated, and nor did he receive appropriate training and
appraisals. The rest home was therefore held vicariously liable for
the registered nurse's breach of the Code.
The registered nurse was referred to the Director of
Proceedings, who laid a charge before the Health Practitioners
Disciplinary Tribunal. In a decision dated 26 March 2009, the
Tribunal found the nurse not guilty of the charge of slapping the
woman on the arms. It held that while evidence disclosed a
disquieting situation, because of the way the charge was framed
they needed to be sure that the nurse deliberately intended to slap
the woman. By a narrow margin the evidence before it did not
satisfy the Tribunal to the requisite standard that the charge had
been proved. They declined to grant the registered nurse name
suppression but granted permanent name suppression to the rest
home, the staff involved, and the consumer.
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