Nurse drugged up on painkillers took four hour nap


By Christine Lavelle

A DRUGGED up care home nurse fell asleep for FOUR hours after taking a powerful pain killer while on duty, a tribunal heard.

Donna Oliver, 40, was slurring her speech and staggering while she was meant to be in charge of 30 ex-servicemen at a care home, according to workmates.

And – they said – Oliver lost a bunch of keys which accessed drug cabinets in patients’ rooms as well as the main medicine store at Red Cross House at the Erskine Home in Bishopton, Renfrewshire.

Health care assistants Alison McQuillan and Andrew Wilson were on night shift duty with Oliver on 11 March 2008 and said they noticed a change in her behaviour around 11.30pm.

Ms McQuillan told the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s Conduct and Competence Committee that Oliver’s behaviour changed very suddenly.

Ms McQuillan said: “I had only spoken to her fifteen minutes before, so the effects seemed to come on very suddenly.

“We sat down to have a meal together and she was slurring her speech and unable to eat properly, dropping things down herself.

“She was also very incoherent, repeating things she had already said and asking us the same questions over and over – it was really strange, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

They suggested Oliver take her break at that point and Ms McQuillan walked her to another room to have a rest, leaving the two care assistants on duty alone.

She said: “She said she hadn’t slept well the past couple of nights and told me she had taken kapake, but she wasn’t making much sense.

“I knew what the drug was because I have been prescribed it before for back pain.”

Normally, a break lasts one hour, but Oliver was gone for around four, between 11.45pm and 3.45am.

Mr Wilson said: “We thought she should have a break because she wasn’t functioning right and she was staggering and not speaking properly.

“We took turns checking her during that time and she had her eyes closed and appeared to be asleep.”

It is claimed that as a result of Oliver’s condition, she misplaced a “large bunch of keys” which gave access to drug cabinets in resident’s rooms, and also the main drug control cupboard at the nurse’s station.

Ms McQuillan said she was alarmed to hear the keys were lost, and while she and Mr Wilson looked frantically for them, Oliver seemed to be acting as though it was no big deal.

Ms McQuillan said: “I couldn’t believe it. I have worked there since 1986 and I have never worked with a nurse who has lost these keys.

“I told her to report them missing to the response nurse who oversees all six of the houses.”

But Ms McQuillan told the panel that Oliver waited until the end of her shift to report the loss.

She said: “I was on shift when the keys were found a few days later.

“Another care assistant was cleaning out a cupboard and found them right in behind some books, it was as though they had been planted there.”

Case presenter Saleem Haferjee told the panel to consider the evidence presented which, he said, proved Oliver’s fitness to practice had been impaired by reason of her misconduct.

He said: “There is no dispute over the evidence given by witnesses that Oliver self medicated while on duty.

“She took the opportunity to take a break after it was suggested by the health care assistants.

“There is also no dispute that the keys to the drugs cupboard were lost as a result of Oliver’s actions as she was in sole charge of them.”

Oliver, from Inverkip, Renfrewshire, was not at the hearing, which continues.