A male nurse carried out an "absolutely horrific" sex attack on a vulnerable patient while she was in her bed at the Ulster Hospital, a court heard.
David Hull, 58, was "deeply ashamed and terribly sorry" for what he had done, defence QC David Hopley told Downpatrick Crown Court.
But Judge Piers Grant said not only had Hull breached the trust placed in him but that his actions had "exacerbated" the pensioner's medical conditions.
"An additional factor that flows from the position she was in [is that] she was completely and utterly at his mercy," said the judge.
Hull, an auxiliary nurse from Main Street in Carrowdore, had pleaded guilty to two charges of sexual assault by penetration on his 65-year-old victim on 2 September last year while the lady was an inpatient at the Ulster Hospital.
Sitting in the dock with his head bowed throughout the half hour hearing, grey haired, balding and bespectacled Hull listened as prosecuting lawyer David McDowell outlined how his victim was vulnerable and bed bound, suffered from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and panic attacks, and had been admitted to hospital when she developed a chest infection.
Added to that, the lawyer revealed that the lady was unable to move around her bed very much because her lower leg had been amputated.
Mr McDowell recounted that at around 9.30pm on September 2, Hull had been cleaning the victim with the curtains closed around her bed when he sexually assaulted her.
Hull had refused the offer of help made by a female nurse, the lawyer told the court, adding that the pensioner was "shocked and horrified" at the assault.
"He said nothing and then he... pulled the sheet over her and left, leaving her in shock," said Mr McDowell.
The lady did not report the incident until the following day and it was "reported up the line expeditiously and treated with the seriousness which it merited". But the court heard how the pensioner was fearful that as Hull would have had access to her medical notes, he would come back to the hospital or find her address.
However as Mr McDowell told the court, "obviously there was no question of that in the circumstances".
Arrested and interviewed, Hull claimed the incident had happened accidentally but that when it did, "he found it sexually arousing".
"He said he was disgusted at himself and that he would have to be punished, but he said that was for getting it wrong in not reporting it and not looking after the patient rather than for committing a sexual offence," the lawyer told the court.
Mr Hopley conceded that married father-of-one Hull "broke every code" when he assaulted the pensioner and that although he realised the harm he caused, it was "very hard for him to accept that he engaged in this behaviour".
Remanding Hull back into custody, Judge Grant said he would sentence him on Friday.