A registered nurse had admitted being guilty of professional misconduct over the unauthorised taking of a large number of confidential patient records and medical files from three nursing homes where she worked in Kerry and Cork.
The nurse, Rasa Leliene, appeared before a fitness-to-practise inquiry of the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland on Wednesday to face a series of allegations over the removal of documents relating to over 20 patients of nursing homes.
The three healthcare facilities from which medical records were taken without authorisation by Ms Leliene were Our Lady of Lourdes Care Facility in Killarney, Co Kerry; Cúil Dídin Nursing and Residential Care in Tralee, Co Kerry; and Macroom Community Hospital, Macroom, Co Cork.
The documents included bed rail assessments, incident reports, nursing staff handover sheets, a prescription, medical reviews and records of family meetings.
Ms Leliene, who has been a registered nurse in the Republic since June 2007, was also accused of failing to comply with a staff confidentiality agreement while employed as a staff nurse at Cúil Dídin nursing home on January 26, 2017, by removing a transfer document concerning a resident.
She faced a similar charge over failing to comply with the HSE’s Code of Practice for Health Records Management while employed at Macroom Community Hospital on February 5, 2017 by removing a record containing sensitive details of 10 residents.
The inquiry heard Ms Leliene claimed she had removed the documents because she wanted to improve her English and had used the files for reference.
She had worked at Cúil Dídin and Macroom Community Hospital during periods between 2016 and 2017 as an agency nurse through the Cork-based agency, Nurse on Call South.
Counsel for the NMBI, Elaine Finneran BL, said the inquiry had resulted from a complaint that had been made to the regulatory body by a director of Our Lady of Lourdes Care Centre, Ned Conlon, in September 2018.
The NMBI’s Fitness to Practise Committee was informed two lots of documents belonging to the Our Lady of Lourdes centre were discovered by staff at St Joseph’s Home in Killorglin, Co Kerry, in August and September 2018 where Ms Leliene worked for two years up to December 2018.
The inquiry heard they were found in her locked office during a period she was on leave when another staff member went to retrieve some files.
It subsequently emerged they also contained records from the two other nursing homes.
Mr Conlon said the removal of the documents which contained “sensitive medical information” was “not a systems failure…but a breach of professional ethics”.
He said Our Lady of Lourdes also notified the Data Protection Commissioner about what happened, while all files were returned to the relevant centres.
Ms Leliene worked at Our Lady of Lourdes between July 2011 and April 2016, where she was promoted to the role of clinical nurse manager.
The inquiry heard she was authorised to access and print out medical records but not to remove them from the nursing home.
Ms Finneran said the allegations either individually or collectively amounted to professional misconduct as Ms Leliene’s actions represented “a serious falling-short of the standards of conduct expected among nurses.”
She claimed the NMBI would not pursue the argument that the nurse’s actions also constituted professional misconduct because they were “infamous or disgraceful”.
The barrister said Ms Leliene’s conduct also amounted to poor professional performance as she had failed to meet the standards of competence that could reasonably be expected of a registered nurse.
In addition, she claimed the nurse had breached the Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics for nurses on several grounds.
An official with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, David Miskell, representing Ms Leliene, said she was making admissions to all the facts contained in the allegations.
Mr Miskell said the nurse also accepted they constituted professional misconduct as well as poor professional performance in relation to data protection.
He said Ms Leliene also acknowledged a breach of the code of conduct in relation to the custody of documents.
The FTP committee agreed to conclude the inquiry after Ms Leliene gave an undertaking not to repeat such conduct and to accept being censured by the NMBI board.
The committee’s chairperson, Mark Blake Knox, said in reaching its decision they had taken into account the events had occurred several years ago and had not been repeated, while the nurse had also made full admissions and issued apologies to her former employers as well as completing additional training and submitting very positive references from her current employer.