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Royal Jubilee theft investigation goes back years

Jan 13 2012

The police investigation of a former nurse at Royal Jubilee Hospital stems from "a string of sporadic thefts" from psychiatric patients, Vancouver Island Health Authority said Thursday.

The thefts date back several years and the investigation has been ongoing, health authority spokeswoman Shannon Marshall said.

Victoria police say the investigation gained momentum in recent weeks and the department expects to recommend charges in the next couple of weeks.

"I think it was just key evidence that came forward on it, something that was a little bit more compelling for our officers to be able to work with," Const. Mike Russell said. "Even at the best of times, some of those cases can be shaky if you just have an allegation and you don't have a lot of evidence to move it forward."

The nurse, who left her job in December, worked in psychiatric emergency services and the hospital's psychiatric intensive care unit.

B.C.'s College of Registered Nurses has launched its own probe after VIHA sent a letter of complaint Tuesday.

"I can't speak to the individual other than to say we are aware of the situation, we are in the process of gathering the material to facilitate our investigation," said Cynthia Johansen, director of registration, inquiry and discipline.

Any patient or victim can complain about a nurse to the college, but Johansen would not say whether the college has received other complaints about the employee.

The investigation would be overseen by a panel of 12 people, including civilians and nurses who would likely interview witnesses, victims, supervisors and collect any relevant physical evidence including patient records.

"Whether a criminal charge is approved by the Crown or not, the college takes the matter very seriously," Johansen said.

The nurse is still licensed to practice in B.C. After the investigation, the college could recommend letting the nurse work under supervision or under certain restrictions or it could strip her licence.

Thefts are "infrequent" among the 40,000 nurses regulated by the college, Johansen said.

Before a nurse is licensed by the college, he or she must undergo a nationwide criminal record check and a vulnerable sector check. A vulnerable sector check is wider, in that it includes convictions that have been pardoned, and is typically required for nurses, teachers, social workers or anyone working with vulnerable individuals.

A criminal record does not prevent someone being licensed as a nurse.

The college takes into account the severity of the charge or conviction, when the offence took place and the circumstances involved, Johansen said.

A criminal record check on nurses is made every five years but nurses are required by law to report immediately if they are facing a criminal charge, she said.

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