Nurse banned for stealing PPE during COVID-19 national storage

In March 2020, Selvarani Burwood was working casually at a Tertiary institution as a clinical nurse facilitator when she abused her authority to pressure students under her supervision to help her steal the hospital’s PPE so she could have enough supply for an upcoming family holiday to England, where she believed she would be visiting places high-risk for COVID-19.

The Perth nurse directly asked students to take masks from the ward, and also instructed them to block the view of other staff members while she removed PPE from an equipment trolley and put them in her handbag. Ms Burwood also accessed the hospital’s storage room and placed the PPE into students’ unform pockets, before requesting they be put into her handbag.

The students noted feeling uncomfortable and stressed, knowing what they were doing was wrong, yet, were concerned that Ms Burwood’s position had the power to influence their hospital placement and grades, evidence has revealed.

According to a statement from Ahpra, on 10 March 2020, Ms Burwood’s employer was alerted to the alleged theft and immediately suspended her. She was later arrested and charged with one count of stealing, which she failed to notify the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA) of. On 22 June 2020, she pleaded guilty to three counts of stealing contrary to s 378 of the Criminal Code.

The NMBA received a notification from her employer regarding the charges, and after investigation, referred Ms Burwood to the State Administrative Tribunal of Western Australia (the tribunal). 

The tribunal found Ms Burwood had behaved in a way that constitutes professional misconduct in relation to stealing and directing student nurses to steal PPE and unprofessional conduct when failing to notify the NMBA regarding her criminal charges.

The tribunal ordered that she: 

  • be reprimanded,
  • have her registration cancelled
  • is disqualified from applying for registration for a period of 12 months, and
  • pay a contribution towards the NMBA’s costs of the proceedings.

Read the Tribunal’s full decision here

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