Crystal meth nurse found guilty of professional misconduct

A nurse facing allegations relating to the possession of crystal meth was yesterday found guilty of six counts of professional misconduct.

John Benedict Butalid de Lara, of Ballyfermot, who cared for elderly patients as a staff nurse at the Royal Hospital Donnybrook from 2003 until 2014, was facing allegations relating to the possession of crystal meth, of ordering Sudafed using the names of several colleagues, and of failing to inform his employer that he was under Garda investigation.

Sanctions will be determined at a later date.

The disciplinary inquiry at the Nursing Board headquarters in Blackrock, Co Dublin, heard in December that an ingredient in Sudafed, pseudoephedrine, can be used in the making of crystal meth.

During the inquiry yesterday, two healthcare assistants said they were shocked that de Lara ordered Sudafed in their names.

An expert witness told the inquiry yesterday that ordering medications in somebody else’s name without their consent was “wholly inappropriate”.

She said a nurse who knowingly breaks the law brings the whole profession into disrepute.

Two healthcare assistants who worked with de Lara, aged 45, yesterday said they were “shocked” when they were told by their manager that de Lara had used their names to order Sudafed on May 23, 2013.

Edwin Palaez, who was out of the country in May 2013, said he was upset and shocked to find out that de Lara had used his name to order Sudafed.

“I was upset because I knew John on the ward,” said Mr Palaez. “I liked him as a colleague. So I was upset and shocked that my name was being used.”

Nicholas Mallari said he was shocked and surprised to find out his name had been used to order Sudafed.

Referring to de Lara, Mr Mallari said: “He’s a nice person. He’s a good colleague. He’s a good nurse. As far as I know, he’s a good man.”

Expert witness Rita Gallagher, a director of nursing who chairs the Irish National Extended Care Medicine Association, said trust is a key aspect of working with colleagues and providing care to patients, and that using colleagues’ names to order Sudafed without their consent constituted “a breach of trust”.

“Trust is a very important aspect of nursing,” said Ms Gallagher.

“In the professional code of conduct, trust is a core value. If trust is broken, it constitutes a serious falling short of the conduct expected of a nurse.

“A staff nurse should be a role model instead of breaching trust.”

Reflecting on the allegations relating to de Lara’s arrest on charges of possession of crystal meth, Ms Gallagher told the inquiry: “Nurses who knowingly break the law bring the nursing profession into disrepute.”

De Lara chose to not give evidence yesterday, and his counsel, John McGuigan, said he would not be calling any further witnesses.

In his closing arguments, Mr McGuigan said de Lara came to Ireland to work as a nurse, and that “he has cared throughout those years for some of the most elderly and vulnerable patients in the State”.

He said de Lara “was popular with colleagues and effective with patients”.

Following the verdict, de Lara exited the side of the building, and ran down the road in an apparent attempt to avoid reporters and camera crews.


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