Home | News | Aged care head nurse vindictive, a bully: judge

Aged care head nurse vindictive, a bully: judge

The head of nursing at a Queensland aged care facility was drunk on the job and bullied her staff, a court has found.

She was also incompetent in her care for residents at the Millmerran Centenary Retirement Village, west of Brisbane, with some ignored as they wallowed in pain for hours.

But despite labelling her "vindictive" and "controlling", a judge has awarded the nurse, Maxine Noone, $15,000 in a lawsuit against aged care advocate Helen Mansell Brown.

Brown was found to have defamed her in a series of Facebook posts in October 2017. Brown was sued after incorrectly claiming Noone was sacked from a previous job over alcohol issues and missing drugs.

But the aged care advocate succeeded in defending other statements against Noone, which Brisbane District Court found were substantially true.

"With complaints of staff bullying, forging signatures, misuse of medication and total lack of discernment and negligence, you should be seriously thinking of sacking your incompetent DON [director of nursing]," Brown wrote in a post directed to the centre, near Toowoomba.

"Your brochure paints such a pretty picture of your establishment but I'm afraid it's just a bad joke.

"These are frail, vulnerable lives you are playing with and deserve better."

Noone claimed Brown suggested she was habitually drunk on the job when she said on Facebook "the DON drinks on duty at Millmerran".

But Brown was able to defend the statement as an honestly held opinion after four staff members, including two doctors, said they observed Noone working while affected by alcohol.

One staffer testified Noone would often reek of alcohol at work and then eat mints to cover up the smell.

A phone conversation in which she was abusive towards a doctor was attributed to her being drunk.

Noone also claimed she was made out as unfit to care for the elderly.

Those complaints were dismissed on the basis of evidence that the fluid intake of residents was restricted under her watch to reduce the need for the changing of incontinence pads.

She also admitted failing to get a resident treatment for a broken hip and wrist following a fall.

The allegations of bullying and intimidation by Noone were also substantiated, with one staff member resigning and another taking his complaint to the health ombudsman.

Noone created workplace disharmony when she informed carers of complaints colleagues had made about them, the trial heard.

Allegations she oversaw the misuse of medication were also backed by evidence.

Judge Paul Smith only upheld her complaint regarding false statements about her previous employment.

"My overall impression on the evidence is that the plaintiff was a controlling, micro-managing and bullying individual who could be vindictive against people not in her camp," Smith said in his judgment.

Noone, a nurse with more than 50 years of experience, claimed the posts horrified her.

She denied all the allegations.

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