On 24 December 2014, the Health Ombudsman (Ombudsman) received a notification regarding the professional conduct of an enrolled nurse, Mr David Kimpton. The Ombudsman investigated Mr Kimpton's conduct and as a result of that investigation referred Mr Kimpton to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) where disciplinary proceedings were instigated against Mr Kimpton.
Mr Kimpton was employed at The Park – Centre for Mental Health Research, Treatment and Education, a specialist secure mental health facility (facility). The relevant patient was transferred to the facility from Townsville Women's Correctional Centre (TWCC) on 7 December 2011 where she met Mr Kimpton. The patient was admitted to the facility experiencing severe mental health problems, including schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive episode with psychotic features and psychotic illness.
One week prior to her admission, the patient had been arrested and charged with one count of torture and two further counts of assault occasioning bodily harm to her eight year old daughter. Her daughter subsequently died.
The patient was admitted to the facility from December 2011 to July 2012. During this time, the patient was often subject to constant observation and Mr Kimpton was from time to time assigned to observe her. Mr Kimpton was not involved in the management of the patient's treatment and was not responsible for administering medication to the patient. Mr Kimpton was delegated tasks by registered nurses which required him to contribute to aspects of the patient's care.
The patient was transferred back to TWCC on 11 July 2012. At this point, the patient's file was updated to record Mr Kimpton as the patient's primary contact. The evidence before the Tribunal was that while the patient was incarcerated, the patient and Mr Kimpton would telephone each other at least once daily, would write letters to one another and Mr Kimpton sent to the patient $150 per fortnight for use while in prison.
The patient was ultimately convicted of manslaughter in relation to the death of her child and on 1 June 2015 her Australian visa was cancelled. Mr Kimpton paid a total of $14,000 in legal fees to the patient's lawyers in relation to immigration proceedings.
Upon release from custody and lived in the Cairns area until she was ultimately deported to New Zealand. Mr Kimpton did not visit the patient in Cairns or in prison and had not contacted the patient since her return to New Zealand.
The conduct came to the attention of the Health Ombudsman after a referral was made by a case manager at the Department of Correctional Services to Mr Kimpton's employer. The case manager had contacted Mr Kimpton to assess his suitability to provide accommodation to the patient upon her potential transfer back into the community. During this conversation Mr Kimpton advised that the patient was his partner and divulged the circumstances of how they met.
Categorisation of the conduct
The Tribunal noted that whist the relationship never became physically intimate, given the vulnerability of the patient, there remained a power imbalance. It was further noted that the relationship is clearly a supportive one and there was no evidence that the patient had been adversely affected by the conduct however the Tribunal emphasised the importance of enforcing ethical professional rules and accepted that the conduct could not be condoned. The Tribunal categorised the conduct as professional misconduct but noted it must be regarded as being the lower end of the spectrum of professional misconduct.
The Tribunal made the following order:
- Pursuant to s 107(2)(b)(iii) of the Health Ombudsman Act 2013 (Qld), the Tribunal finds Mr Kimpton has behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct.
- Pursuant to s 107(3)(a) of the Health Ombudsman Act 2013 (Qld), Mr Kimpton is reprimanded.
- The parties must pay their own costs of these proceedings. Read More