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Nurse caught with painkillers has been harshly treated

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 12/03/2016

The 47-year-old nurse was arrested by police
The 47-year-old nurse was arrested by police

The way a nurse was treated at the South West Acute Hospital near Enniskillen reads more like a tale from some totalitarian state than the behaviour expected from within the walls of what is a caring environment.

The 47-year-old nurse was arrested by police, fingerprinted, kept in a cell overnight and had her home and car searched. Her crime - taking six over-the-counter painkillers and two sleeping tablets from a medicine cabinet in the hospital.

She says she needed them to ease the pain of her broken foot. It is a tribute to her that she had turned up for work while still recovering from her injury.

While it is proper that hospitals should attempt to keep their drug stores under as tight control as possible - a secret camera was trained on the medicine cabinet - there appears to have been an over-reaction to what at worst was a misdemeanour.

Perhaps she should have asked a medical colleague to provide her with the pain relief until she was able to collect her own prescription rather than take the pills without informing anyone or seeking permission.

It should have been obvious to the hospital authorities almost immediately that this member of staff was not some major criminal intent on creating some black market drugs ring with the hospital's pharmaceuticals. Yet that is how she was treated.

One can only imagine her astonishment at finding herself in the surreal position of being fingerprinted, having her home and car searched and being kept overnight in a police cell, unable to contact her children to inform them of what was happening.

Now she is suspended from duty without pay at the hospital. Her professional body has also suspended her and a report on the incident is being prepared for the Public Prosecution Service.

Nurses do an incredible job in the NHS and are often the first health professionals that patients encounter. Many will share our astonishment at this nurse's treatment and feel that it is hardly an encouragement to others to join the profession.

Belfast Telegraph

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