A Victorian man who falsely claimed to be a registered nurse has been convicted in court of charges laid by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
Magistrate David Starvaggi convicted the man in the Ringwood Magistrates’ Court of four counts of holding himself out as a registered nurse, one count of unlawfully using the protected title ‘registered nurse’ and one count of unlawfully claiming to be authorised or qualified to practise in the nursing profession. The man had pleaded guilty to these offences under the National Law.
The charges were laid after an AHPRA investigation into allegations that the man had held himself out as a registered nurse while seeking employment, and later practising as the director of nursing in an aged-care facility (a role that required registration as a nurse). The man has never been registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) and does not have any qualifications as a nurse.
The court noted that this was a serious example of this type of offence and that if the newly imposed penalties were applicable — ie, if the offences had been committed after 1 July 2019 — it would have considered imprisonment. As it was, the man was fined a total of $60,000 and ordered to pay AHPRA’s costs to the amount of $4000.
AHPRA CEO Martin Fletcher welcomed the court’s strong comments and reminded the public, employers and practitioners that there are a number of criminal offences that people can report to AHPRA, including unlawful advertising, unlawful use of protected titles and unlawful claims to registration.
“We will prosecute offences,” Fletcher said. “We want to be clear that the work we do is paramount to public safety. We make sure high-risk offence complaints, such as this one, are dealt with quickly so the public are protected.
“Our risk-based approach also means we respond to lower risk offence matters, such as advertising offences. These are dealt with through our advertising compliance strategy which focuses on ensuring registered practitioners are compliant with their regulatory obligations in any advertising.
“The two approaches complement each other, and make sure we address every individual offence concern raised with us to ensure public protection.” NMBA Chair Associate Professor Lynette Cusack said the man’s actions endangered the public’s confidence in the profession.
“It is never okay to pass yourself off as a nurse; however, doing so and being in a senior position of influence and responsibility as a director of nursing is a serious abuse of trust,” she said. “Nurses are always in a position of trust when working in our healthcare services, but particularly in this case that trust was abused by someone working with one of our most vulnerable patient groups — our elderly.
“He may well have committed further offences if hadn’t been for the diligence of our investigators in AHPRA’s Criminal Offences Unit, who painstakingly investigated the matter to ensure the sentence given was entirely appropriate.”
The prosecution comes just one week after another Victorian — a woman — was convicted of two counts of holding herself out as a registered nurse and two counts of providing false information to an AHPRA inspector. Anyone with concerns about whether an individual is registered with a national health profession board can check the register of practitioners maintained by AHPRA or contact AHPRA on 1300 419 495.
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