A nurse has been fined $25,000 for allowing an ex-prisoner she had treated stay at her home as a flatmate for nine months.
The nurse, who has permanent name suppression, claimed an invitation to the former prisoner to stay at her home for a night as a guest, and thereafter as a flatmate, was an act of kindness and compassion.
But the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal found the relationship to be inappropriate, as she had previously cared for the prisoner while she worked at a Corrections facility.
In a decision published yesterday, the nurse was censured and ordered to pay a fine of $5000, plus $20,000 towards the cost of the hearing. The tribunal noted it was within a "hair's breadth" of suspending the nurse.
In the decision, it was noted that the prisoner was a "vulnerable person" and there was a "significant power imbalance" between the nurse and the prisoner. While the nurse was employed at a prison, she cared for the prisoner on several occasions over a two month period. This included giving him a flu vaccination, a "mood review" and an exit interview upon his release.
On the day following his release the nurse met with the prisoner, and went to see his accommodation - which she found to be substandard.
She claimed the meeting was coincidental, but the Tribunal's view was that the meeting was likely arranged at his exit interview the day before.
After viewing the former prisoner's accommodation, the nurse invited him to stay at her home one night as a guest, then invited him to stay at her home as a flatmate. Payments from the prisoner to the nurse continued over a nine-month period.
The nurse described the deterioration of their relationship over that time, and after nine months she evicted the former prisoner from her home.
The nurse obtained a temporary protection order under the Domestic Violence Act against the former prisoner in April 2015, which was made final three months later.
The Department of Corrections' manager of regional health was alerted to the relationship between the two by the former prisoner's probation officer, who told the tribunal their relationship appeared to be "intimate".
The nurse disputed that the former prisoner was vulnerable, referencing his overpowering nature and the physical power imbalance between her and the prisoner.
The Tribunal found the nurse's conduct brought, or was likely to bring, discredit to the nursing profession warranting disciplinary sanction.