Caregiver sacked for ill-treating disabled man

By Kieran Campbell

The ERA said Sharoja Devi Naicker's actions constituted serious misconduct. Photo / Thinkstock
The ERA said Sharoja Devi Naicker's actions constituted serious misconduct. Photo / Thinkstock

A caregiver refused to put underpants on a physically disabled elderly patient, and left him unshaven and unwashed on top of his tangled catheter.

Sharoja Devi Naicker was fired from the West Harbour Gardens Hospital in Auckland for the ill-treatment of the man and another patient.

Naicker denied the allegations and, with legal aid funding, attempted to claim damages for unfair dismissal through the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

The ERA has dismissed Naicker's claims, finding her actions constituted serious misconduct.

The ill-treatment of the disabled man was discovered by a clinical coordinator at the hospital on September 30 last year.

The man, referred to by the ERA as Mr B to protect his identity, was "physically vulnerable due to severe limb constrictions as a result of cerebral palsy".

Although he was physically restricted, he was "a mentally bright, intelligent and alert man and able to make himself clearly understood".

Naicker first refused to take Mr B out of bed when he requested to be put in his wheelchair.

It was only when he insisted that she placed him in a fall out chair but left him unwashed, unshaved and in the same clothes as the night before.

He asked Naicker to put underwear on him but she refused.

Mr B was in tears when he was found and later made a complaint against Naicker, which needed to be transcribed by a hospital staff member.

About the same time, another caregiver at the hospital also made a complaint about Naicker's treatment of a patient.

Naicker had tried to physically lift a paralysed and almost mute patient from a shower chair into a bed when the only method that should be used was a sling and mechanical hoist.

The fellow caregiver said she was "horrified" to see the patient was not in a hoist and helped Naicker get her into the bed.

The hospital reviewed the incident and said Naicker had placed the patient at risk.

She was fired on October 5 last year.

The mistreatment of patients was preceded by a final written warning earlier last year after Naicker failed to go to work on a day when she had been denied annual leave.

Naicker told her boss she had family from Australia staying with her "and she did not want to come to work and leave them".

Her husband, Muni Chandra Naicker, who was representing her at a disciplinary meeting, intervened and said his wife was sick with "woman problems".

Naicker was asked to prove she was sick with a doctor's certificate, which she sought later that week.

The medical certificate showed she "retrospectively reported to [her GP] that you were not fit for duty" and "would indicate that you had in fact not consulted a doctor at the time of your alleged sickness".

- APNZ

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