Auckland nurse Ashwani Lal who stole from patients faces fresh investigation.

The Nursing Council are investigating claims that decision was based on false information. Photo / 123rf
The Nursing Council are investigating claims that decision was based on false information. Photo / 123rf

Emma RussellBy: Emma Russell

Emma Russell is a health reporter for the New Zealand Herald emma.russell@nzherald.co.nz

An Auckland nurse who stole from a patient is facing a fresh investigation after claims from her boss that she didn’t disclose her prior offending.

The Herald this week reported a Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal decision revealing a nurse who stole more than $1200 from a disabled patient was allowed to continue nursing.

“This is a once-only second chance,” barrister Maria Dew QC said in the report.

However, the Nursing Council is reinvestigating the case after her employer came forward saying she never disclosed her criminal convictions.

The nurse, Ashwani Lal, has been working as a medical receptionist at Papakura-based medical centre, The Wood Street Doctors, since September last year.

The HPDT report said Lal had disclosed her theft convictions to her current employer but the medical centre’s practice manager told the Herald that was not true.

“We were totally shocked when we read the article,” said the manager, who spoke on the condition her named wasn’t used.

She said management couldn’t be sure if it was a “weird coincidence” that their employee had the same name, was also from South Auckland, and was also working as a medical receptionist so they contacted the Nursing Council.

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“We didn’t want to accuse her without knowing for sure.”

“The council is
The Nursing Council’s deputy registrar Clare Prendergast told the Herald the council investigating the issues.

Lal told the Herald she didn’t tell her employer because she had been trying to get a job for the past five years and was having no luck.

“I was scared.”

She said after the Herald story was published her employer asked if it was her and she said it wasn’t.

“I told them it wasn’t me, it was just someone with the same name as me. I was scared. The next day I told them the truth,” she said.

Before the story came out, Lal had resigned from The Wood Street Doctors after being offered a job at Blockhouse Bay Medical Centre. Her last day is today.

But the Blockhouse Bay centre has since rescinded her job offer. The Herald contacted the centre for comment but they declined, saying it was a “confidential employment matter”.

Employment law expert Blair Scotland said under New Zealand law an employee or an applicant did not have to disclose criminal convictions unless the employer asked.

“I always encourage employers to do a free Ministry of Justice criminal history check. ‘Trust but verify’,” Scotland said.

When the Herald asked the practice manager at The Wood Street Doctors why they didn’t ask about criminal convictions, she said: “We didn’t want to judge, she told us she was sick and really needed a job so we gave her one.”

The tribunal report also said Lal’s current employer provided a reference to the tribunal – but the practice manager said that they hadn’t.

Lal said her previous employer, East Tamaki Healthcare, who provided the reference.

East Tamaki Healthcare did not respond to a request for comment.

Dishonesty convictions

In 2016, Lal was working as a nurse at Pukekohe Rehabilitation and Care Unit when she stole the patient’s credit card to pay $1226.14 in power bills in 2016. On a separate occasion, she stole a colleague’s debit card to pay off $291.93 worth of phone and power bills.

She was convicted for two offences of dishonesty and sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay $1558.07 reparation to the victims.

The HPDT report said Lal has not held an Annual Practising Certificate since then and has been working for two employers as a medical practice receptionist.

“These roles have involved liaising with patients, general administrative tasks and managing payments, cash and banking,” the decision said.

The HPDT report said Lal expressed to the tribunal her strong desire to return to clinical practice and that she was willing to accept any supervision and conditions it might impose.

She said she had reflected on her ethical obligations under the Nursing Council’s Code of Conduct and wanted to earn back trust and respect.

She would be willing to share her experiences and learnings about trust, integrity and honesty with other trainee nurses. She also hoped eventually to upskill to become a registered nurse.

Auckland nurse who stole more than $1200 from patient allowed to continue nursing, says Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.

Auckland nurse Ashwani Lal given second chance to continue nursing after stealing from a patient. Photo / 123rf
Auckland nurse Ashwani Lal given second chance to continue nursing after stealing from a patient. Photo / 123rf

An Auckland nurse who stole more than $1200 from a disabled patient has been given a “once-only second chance” to continue nursing.

Ashwani Lal, who worked at Pukekohe Rehabilitation and Care Unit, had her nursing registration suspended for nine months after being convicted for stealing $1200 from a patient and nearly $300 from a colleague.

Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal decision, published today, said the tribunal believes that Lal had learned her lesson and would not act like this again against a patient or a colleague.

“She must recognise that this is a ‘once-only’ second chance,” the report said.

Lal stole the patient’s credit card to pay $1226.14 in power bills in 2016. On a separate occasion, she stole a colleague’s debit card to pay off $291.93 worth of phone and power bills.

She was convicted for two offences of dishonesty at Pukekohe District Court in 2017, and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay $1558.07 reparation to the victims.

Lal resigned from her job at Pukekohe Hospital in May 2017 and has not held an Annual Practising Certificate since then.

Instead, she has been working for two different employers as a medical practice receptionist.

“These roles have involved liaising with patients, general administrative tasks and managing payments, cash and banking,” the decision said.

Lal voluntarily disclosed her theft convictions to both employers. Her current employer is aware she is facing this disciplinary charge and Ms Lal produced a reference from her current employer, the report said.

The HPDT report said Lal expressed to the tribunal her strong desire to return to clinical practise and that she is willing to accept any supervision and conditions that might be imposed by the tribunal.

She said she has reflected on her ethical obligations under the Nursing Council’s Code of Conduct and wants to earn back trust and respect.

She would be willing to share her experiences and learnings about trust, integrity and honesty with other trainee nurses. She also hopes eventually to upskill to become a registered nurse.

The Professional Conduct Committee sought cancellation of the Practitioner’s registration, censure and an order for costs.

Counsel emphasised that the primary purpose of cancellation was not to punish but rather to protect the public by upholding professional standards and deterring similar conduct, the report said.

Lal said she was facing mounting debt and a stressful home situation at the time, and felt “extreme” pressure to change this.

A tribunal of five, led by barrister Maria Dew QC, said: “This was a serious case of dishonesty” but considered the cancellation unnecessary.

“We do not see that this is necessary to protect the public or uphold professional standards in this case. The practitioner has demonstrated that she is capable of rehabilitation.

“However, we do consider it appropriate and proportionate to suspend the Practitioner’s registration as an enrolled nurse for a period nine months.

“A period of suspension is necessary to mark the seriousness of the offending and to make clear to the profession that such conduct will have professional consequences,” the tribunal said in its decision.

If Lal chooses to return to practice, she will be required to complete a Nursing Council approved course in ethics within six months and notify prospective employers about this Tribunal decision for a period of 12 months.

Grand-daughter’s financial abuse of Grandmother ends in bankruptcy of the grandmother.

Oamaru woman shares her experience of elder abuse

For two years, Molly, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, struggled with growing debts after the loss of her main income and financial exploitation by her granddaughter. Photo / 123rf
For two years, Molly, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, struggled with growing debts after the loss of her main income and financial exploitation by her granddaughter. Photo / 123rf

Oamaru MailBy: Ruby Heyward

Elder abuse is a growing problem and the offending is often perpetrated by family members. One Oamaru woman breaks her silence on the extreme financial and psychological abuse she suffered from her granddaughter. Ruby Heyward reports.

For Molly, it was a scary experience, wrapped with feelings of shame and financial roadblocks, but it was also the best thing that happened to her.

For two years, the 70-year-old Oamaru woman, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, struggled with growing debts after the loss of her main income and financial exploitation by her granddaughter.

It all started when she agreed to extend an existing loan to assist her granddaughter, who was moving cities with her boyfriend

Although she was warned against it, Molly thought her granddaughter was honest and she wanted to help her out.

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Coming to an “internal arrangement”, she lent her granddaughter $11,000 and was promised it would be paid back over time.

“She promised me beyond all promises that she would pay me back,” she said.

Things got worse for Molly when she was forced to leave her employment at 69, due to an existing health problem.

“I was getting a pension and a good wage, then my income went straight down.”

‘Senior Lives Matter:’ Winston Peters fires up over elder abuse

She had gone from a financial security that allowed her to lend money, to getting behind on “everything”.

Every time she approached her granddaughter about repayments, she was met with an onslaught of profanity

“It was the awfulness of how she spoke to me.

“She completely let me down. I was left with nothing.”

Relying solely on the pension, Molly’s debts had snowballed so much that she could only dedicate $50 a fortnight to food.

She pleaded with her granddaughter to give her at least $10 a week so she could eat.

Her granddaughter changed her phone number.

Then, the phone calls started coming from the banks and services to which Molly owed money.

Every time the phone rang a panic washed over her.

“Here I am, a person who has looked after myself pretty well, being frightened of my phone.”

Even when she was able to meet monthly bill payments, she could not keep up with the building interest.

Unsure of what to do, Molly went to Work and Income New Zealand, and was referred to the North Otago Budget Advisory Service.

Financial mentor Mary Bulatao advised her to file bankruptcy.

“We put it all on paper to see the financial reality and asked Bulatao said.

Molly’s debts – as high as $63,000 at one point – exceeded the threshold needed to declare bankruptcy.

They had the difficult task of processing her bankruptcy during last year’s Covid-19 lockdown, but once it was done, Molly’s debts were wiped.

“The phone calls stopped,” Molly said.

It meant she was unable to take out any more loans, could not travel, and had to find a new bank that would allow her to hold an account.

Bulatao was able to deal with banks on Molly’s behalf and secured an account for her pension to go into.

“I’ll be out of it in three years,” Molly said.

“It’s given me my life back.”

For Molly, “pride” initially held her back from seeking help.

She said many of her friends thought financial assistance was not for them and would just “go through the cruelties”.

“These older ladies are not managing well, but they don’t know they can ask for help.”

Bulatao said the North Otago Budget Advisory Service was not dictatorial or judgmental.

“We are here to help people find their best options and work with them.”

She encouraged people to ask for help early.

“It’s hard to help someone who is too far in.”

With her bills all on track – and being close to paying the second of her three secured debts – Molly had a new lease on life.

However, she no longer had a relationship with her granddaughter.

“It’s bad for me. [But] I need to look after myself.”

– Oamaru Mail

Netflix Drama “I Care a Lot” highlights financial abuse of elderly by state-funded caregivers.

A drama about a managed care facility for the elderly, whereby senior management scan the health files of local hospitals, to determine who to target for the acquisition of the elderly persons assets.

Bewarecare interview: Wairapapa Times Age.

Image

Story reads:

An Auckland family counsellor is calling for more protection for the elderly from the risk of financial abuse by professional caregivers.

Stephen Taylor, family counsellor and director of Relationship Matters Ltd, believes stronger measures are needed to protect vulnerable elderly from being exploited by state-funded and private in-home caregivers.

“One case I became familiar with was a woman who worked as an in-home caregiver, and who had groomed and then financially exploited so many elderly clients, she ended up with a portfolio of 10 properties to her name.”

Mr Taylor believes the elderly, who have often built up significant assets during their lives, are vulnerable to being emotionally manipulated by caregivers because of the nature of the role.

Often, he says, families are powerless to intervene in the situation.

Mr Taylor is inviting anyone who has had this experience to contact him, as he plans to present a petition to the government calling for the creation of stronger measures to protect the elderly.

Some of the obvious areas that need addressing, Mr Taylor says, are:

* Lawyers of clients should be excluded from being beneficiaries of their client’s Will.

* Financial abuse of the elderly should be a “criminal” matter instead of a “civil” matter.

* Criminal sanctions must be available to families and agencies to prosecute caregivers who place their clients in a position of dependency on them.

* No service provider, public or state-funded, that is supplying any service to a client should be involved in the personal and financial affairs of their clients.

* There should be a professional association for private and state funded caregivers (in home or otherwise), a Code of Ethical Conduct, and meaningful training in ethics.

* Money and gifts from clients to their service delivery provider should be off limits.

* The Health & Disability Commissioner needs more firepower, funding, people and resources to speed up decisions on complaints which currently can take more than a year.

* Anyone who is professional caregiver should have an EPOA if they are a recipient of any personal financial benefits from an elderly person, and if they do have an EPOA and/or have been named as a beneficiary of a client’s Will, then they should have to be able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they attained the role of a beneficiary legitimately.

Mr Taylor may be contacted at steve.taylor@relationshipmatters.org.nz

Please go to https://bewarecare.org/ for more information on this issue, and to share your story of elder financial abuse.

Age Concern more concerned with its reputation, not the financial abuse of the elderly?

So, I wrote this:

https://www.bhb.nz/straight-talk/open-season-on-the-elderly

And Age Concerns Response was this (see page 8):

Discuss.

BewareCare NZ Press Release 12/11/20.

Age Concern, BewareCare New Zealand dispute erupts into the public domain, over protection of elderly from Caregiver financial grooming and abuse.

A growing dispute regarding the effectiveness of advocacy for elderly who are financially abused by their state-funded and private caregivers has erupted into the public domain, with Age Concern scrambling to protect their community advocacy brand against an opinion piece recently published by BewareCare NZ.

The original BewareCare NZ article is here:

In response, the CEO of Age Concern, Kevin Lamb, took pains to refute the claims by BewareCare New Zealand:

Stephen Taylor, Convenor of BewareCare NZ, is both bemused and satisfied by the response of Age Concern.

“In their public reply to BewareCare NZ, it seems to me that the CEO of Age Concern, Kevin Lamb, is confirming the central premises of our original article, these premises being that Age Concern receives state funding; they receive complaints; and they have absolutely no power to enforce, sanction, or hold those people who commit financial grooming and abuse in any way accountable for their actions against a very vulnerable population” says Mr Taylor.

Rather than trying to minimise their brand damage against what are legitimate concerns being raised by BewareCare NZ, it would make more sense for Age Concern to support BewareCare NZ in the petition we are preparing to the incoming Government regarding the steps needed to minimise the possibility of financial abuse against the elderly.

BewareCare NZ exists:

1/ To publicly expose the rampant “open season” upon the vulnerable elderly who are being financially groomed and abused by Caregivers in New Zealand;

2/ To lobby Government to create meaningful protective factors for this vulnerable population who are being financially groomed and abused by Caregivers;

3/ To encourage the NZ legal system to enforce meaningful sanctions against Caregivers who commit acts of such financial grooming and abuse against this vulnerable population.

Ends

Stephen Taylor

Convenor

BewareCare NZ

bewarecarenz@gmail.com

Age Concern Auckland CEO Kevin Lamb publically responds to BewareCare NZ article, and in doing so, confirms their “state-funded echo-chamber” status.

The Ultimate Guide to Protecting Your Brand on Amazon in 2020

The original article was here.

Age Concern Auckland CEO Kevin Lambs response is below:

Straight Talk

Elder Abuse something we all must fight

It was disappointing to read in the recent opinion article from Stephen Taylor that he thinks Age Concern is a state funded echo chamber that does not take complaints of elder abuse seriously.

As the CEO of Age Concern Auckland I know this is simply not the case and that his comments are far from reality.  Firstly, and very briefly, to say we are a state funded organisation is simply not correct. Age Concern receives only partial funding from the government, (so, you are state funded – ed) however, to deliver the services and essential support we provide we rely on the generosity of the community.

Secondly, and far more importantly, we investigate all elder abuse complaints we receive. (No you don’t. I have evidence that you don’t. What you do is offer simpering faux-empathy, and then admit that your organisation has no powers to meaningfully investigate complaints, or effect any sanctions – you are just a complaints echo chamber-ed). In the last 12 months our dedicated team of specialist Elder Abuse Response Workers supported 617 older people across Auckland to address the abuse they were experiencing. We worked closely with a plethora of organisations including New Zealand Police, banks, lawyers, doctors and many others during this process. All of us working for the same goal of stopping the abuse and protecting the older person involved.

Unfortunately, the reality is that Elder abuse is a complex and frequently hidden problem, that occurs far too often. An analysis of data from the New Zealand Longitudinal Study of Ageing concluded that 10% of the population aged over 65 years who are living in the community experience abuse. However, it is estimated that only 1 in 14 of all abuse incidents come to the attention of a service agency, like Age Concern, that can intervene to help stop the abuse. (Age Concern has no powers of intervention, which is why 75% of people with a complaint don’t contact you – they already know that Age Concern has no ability whatsoever to help them – ed).This is for a variety of reasons but not least because in 4 out of 5 cases of Elder Abuse the offender is a family member of the victim.

I wholeheartedly agree that more has to be done to protect older members of our community from elder abuse and we need to stop it. How do we do that? A first step, is if you see abuse, speak out against it.

Elder Abuse can be a very sensitive and distressing matter to speak openly about, but I encourage everyone in the community to be aware of the risk factors and speak out if they are experiencing abuse or are concerned that someone they know is. Age Concern will listen to your concerns, and we will look at what can be done to assist (This admission confirms my original premise -you have no agency powers whatsoever – ed). We must work together to protect the older members of our community.

We are appreciative of Stephen raising this important issue. (No you’re not – you’re embarrassed that I have raised the issue, and you are now scrambling to protect your service brand in the public space -ed). It is a matter that needs and deserves a far higher level of public dialogue. Age Concern Auckland actively works to support all those who need our help and we are thankful to the community for their support in assisting us to do this.

If you have any concerns about Elder Abuse you can speak confidentially to Age Concern Auckland by calling us on 09 820 0184.

Kevin Lamb

CEO Age Concern Auckland

www.ageconcernauckland.org.nz

Alexis Sawyers

Fundraising & Communications Manager

Age Concern Auckland Incorporated

PO Box 19542, Avondale, Auckland 1026

57 Rosebank Road, Avondale

Mob: 021 120 5989 Fax: +64 9 8281660

email: AlexisS@ageconak.org.nz I www.ageconcernauckland.org.nz

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