Irish nurse suspended for one year as court hears he sent naked image to patient while working in Australia

Irish nurse  suspended for one year as court hears he sent naked image to patient while working in Australia
File image.

A nurse has had his registration here suspended for a year for professional misconduct while working at an Australian hospital, including sending a patient an MMS message containing a private and/or naked image on his mobile phone.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly, confirmed sanctions sought by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland (NMBI) against Edward Christopher Keegan, aged in his fifties, with an address at Castleglen, Donacarney, Co Meath, who is registered on the general nursing register here.

The judge made orders suspending Mr Keegan's registration for a year and attaching two conditions to his re-registering.

These require him to complete a return to nursing course and sign a declaration he has read and understood the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for Nurses and Midwives and the Guidance to Nurses and Midwives on Social Media and Social Networking.

The NMBI considered those sanctions appropriate based on the seriousness of Mr Keegan's actions and taking into account "frank admissions" he had made, his expressions of remorse, the insight shown by him and the difficulties he said he experienced in the Australian hospital unit in question.

A Fitness to Practice Committee of the NMBI held an inquiry after the Nursing and Midwifery Council of New South Wales in Australia notified the NMBI in 2016 that Mr Keegan's registration had been suspended there following allegations of "inappropriate contact" with a patient on dates in September 2013.

Mr Keegan, who voluntarily withdrew his name from the New South Wales nursing register in 2015, did not participate in the FTP inquiry and was not represented.

Earlier this year, the FTP inquiry found that Mr Keegan, while employed at the Drug Health Services Inpatient Treatment Unit at Concord Repatriation General Hospital, New South Wales, around September 5 or 6, 2013, looked at one or more private and/or naked image(s) on his mobile phone while in the nurses station at the unit and left his phone unattended on the desk in the nurses' station with a private and/or naked image on the screen.

It also found that, on September 6 and/or September 7, 2013, he failed to maintain appropriate professional boundaries with a patient in that he sent a text message to the patient, accepted a phone call from the patient and/or sent a multimedia message via mobile phone to the patient containing a private and/or naked image.

It also found he failed to report, adequately or at all, the allegations to his manager and/or the hospital authorities.

The NMBI agreed with the FTP committee those findings amounted to professional misconduct on the basis of a serious falling short of the standard of conduct expected of nurses.

In relation to Mr Keegan's sending a private and/or naked image to the patient, it found that was "infamous and disgraceful" conduct in a professional respect.

Mr Keegan did not appeal the FTPC findings or the proposed sanction and was not in court on Monday.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Kelly said he saw no reason not to confirm the proposed sanction.

If the Board had decided on a more serious sanction, neither would he have interfered with that having regard to the limited function of the High Court in such matters, he said.

The NMBI has primary responsibility for ensuring the maintenance of standards and of public confidence in the nursing profession, he said.

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