Children were left unprotected from deadly diseases after a nurse administered the wrong vaccines and altered records to cover her tracks, South Australia’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal has found.
- Tracy Paterson deleted or altered the records of 17 patients while she was working as a nurse
- In some cases, children were left unprotected against deadly diseases
- Ms Paterson has been banned from providing health services for 15 years
An investigation spanning several years also discovered Tracy Paterson posed as doctors to prescribe herself weight loss medication, and blamed her young stepdaughter after she forged training certificates to make them appear current.
The tribunal found Ms Paterson’s actions amounted to serious professional misconduct and banned her from providing any health service for 15 years.
A published judgement reveals she had “wrongly and deliberately deleted, or falsely altered, or made untrue entries” in the records of 17 patients while she was working as an enrolled nurse at Ladywood Clinic at Modbury Heights in 2014 and 2015.
Ms Paterson, who was known at the clinic as Tracy Gray, administered a child with the IPV vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio in January 2015.
She informed the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register (ACIR) that the vaccine had been given, but incorrectly stated on clinic records the vaccine given was MMR for measles, mumps and rubella.
Ms Paterson administered the IPV vaccine for a second time when the child returned to the clinic weeks later, but the MMR vaccine was never injected.
The ACIR contacted the child’s parents about the vaccine months later.
When questioned about the discrepancy, Ms Paterson “falsified the records to cover up her own mistake”.
“The child’s parents would have been deceived into thinking that the child was properly immunised when that was not the case.”
A similar course of events was found to have taken place in the cases of two other children, who also had their records altered to hide the fact they had not received the MMR vaccine.
In the separate case of another child, Ms Paterson administered only half of the correct dosage of flu vaccine and again changed the patient’s records to hide the error.
After two adult patients suffered adverse reactions to immunisations, Ms Paterson altered their records to reflect that she had washed her hands before administering the vaccine and asked the patients to remain at the clinic for monitoring.
Several other patients had their records deleted or altered but Ms Paterson’s motives for doing so in those cases were not clear.
On another occasion in 2015, she deleted the entire medical records of all patients with the same surname as her ex-husband.
The clinic said it has taken steps to ensure, as far as possible, that any concerns about patient vaccines have now been followed up.
‘She cannot be trusted’
The tribunal also found Ms Paterson had posed as various medical practitioners in order to fraudulently access medication and treatment.
On four occasions in 2015, she used computers logged into by other staff to print herself prescriptions for the weight loss medication Duromine.
In May of that year, she again used the computer and log-in of a locum practitioner to create a Medicare health care plan for herself.
She validated the plan by forging the practitioner’s signature, before she underwent government-funded treatment and later deleted records of the plan.
Ms Paterson was dismissed from her role at the clinic in August 2015, before the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) opened an investigation into the case.
She initially denied the allegations by claiming that new clinic management were “trying to get rid of staff” and the records could have been changed by someone else using her log-in.
But she wrote in a later email that she was “admitting my guilt to all the accusations” and “I truly apologise”.
It was also discovered that in 2014, before she began at the clinic, she had forged training certificates while employed as an enrolled nurse at care provider SACARE.
When questioned by authorities, Ms Paterson said her 12-year-old stepdaughter had altered old documents to make them appear current, then sent them on her behalf.
“She expressed horror that her professionalism had been questioned,” the judgement said.
In light of the misconduct, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia asked the tribunal to disqualify Ms Paterson from registering as a health professional for 10 years.
However, the South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal found her “grave departures” from appropriate conduct and indifference to patient care warranted a longer suspension.
“There is an overriding need to protect the public as well as the integrity of the profession.”
Ms Paterson was disqualified from applying for registration and prohibited from providing any health service for a period of 15 years.