RN Robert Cooper and RN Lucas Higgins – Professional misconduct

19 Feb 2018

The Health Care Complaints Commission (‘the Commission’) prosecuted complaints against two registered nurses, RN Robert Cooper and RN Lucas Higgins before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (‘the Tribunal’). Both complaints alleged the practitioners were guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.  

The complaints related to the nurses’ conduct on the night shift at Gosford Mental Health Unit at Gosford Hospital on 30 and 31 August 2013. Patient A was found deceased early on the morning of 31 August 2013. The complaint against RN Cooper alleged that he failed to undertake appropriate observations on Patient A as well as another patient, Patient B and that, being the Nurse-In-Charge of the shift, he failed to adequately monitor and supervise. The complaint against RN Higgins alleged that he failed to undertake appropriate observations on Patients A and B and that he completed the observation charts for Patients A and B in a misleading manner.

Decision

On 16 February 2018, the Tribunal found both complaints proved and that both practitioners were guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct and professional misconduct.

In relation to RN Cooper, the Tribunal found that he demonstrated a continuing lack of insight, however, “his remorse over the death of Patient A appear genuine and consistent with the supportive assessments of his character provided by colleagues past and present”. The Tribunal ordered that RN Cooper be reprimanded and that a condition be placed on his registration that he complete an educational course on ethics and record keeping. 

In relation to RN Higgins, the Tribunal ordered that his registration be suspended for four months and that a condition be placed on his registration that he complete an educational course on ethics and record keeping. The Tribunal found in the case of RN Higgins that suspension “was necessary to adequately achieve the objectives of minimising the risk of reoccurrence, deterring other practitioners from engaging in such conduct and thus maintaining the public confidence in the profession”.

Further Information

The full decision is available at NSW Caselaw

For further information, contact the Executive Officer of the Health Care Complaints Commission, on 9219 7444 or send an email to media@hccc.nsw.gov.au.

The information in this media release is correct at the time of publication. Orders may change; for example, conditions may no longer apply. For current information regarding the status of a registered health practitioner, including any conditions that currently apply, please check the National Register at www.ahpra.gov.au.