On 24 September 2019, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (the Tribunal) handed down a 5 year disqualification to a nurse found to be “overly involved” in the affairs of a patient at a residential aged care facility where the nurse worked as a nurse unit manager.
It was alleged that, after learning that the patient, Lionel Cox, owned his own home but had no family and no will, nurse Abha Kumar purchased a will kit for Cox that he proceeded to complete by naming Kumar as sole executor and beneficiary. Kumar then organised for two other staff members to witness the will.
In 2015, Cox passed away leaving Kumar the sole beneficiary of a $1m estate.
After conducting an investigation, the Tribunal found that Kumar engaged in professional misconduct by overly involving herself in the affairs of a patient, failing to adequately manage a conflict of interest and failing to uphold the integrity of the profession.
Interestingly, the Tribunal has no jurisdiction over Cox’s estate. Therefore, without a claim being brought by another interested party in Cox’s estate, Kumar was free to retain the $1m estate, calling into question whether disqualification is a severe enough deterrent to this type of professional misconduct.
In a press release on 26 September 2019, Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) cites Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia Chair, Professor Lynette Cusack:
“Nurses are among the most trusted professions in our community and the vast majority work with deep integrity and a commitment to providing professional care for vulnerable people. When the actions of an individual let down the standards of the profession, we will take action to keep patients and the community safe from exploitation…”
Once again, cases such as this thrust elder abuse into the spotlight with demands for greater protection of Australia’s vulnerable ageing population.