Nurse guilty of professional misconduct over crystal meth allegations

Medic accused of ordering Sudafed using names of colleagues, Nursing Board inquiry told

A nurse facing allegations relating to the possession of crystal meth was on Friday found guilty of six counts of professional misconduct.

John Benedict Butalid de Lara (45) of Ballyfermot, who cared for elderly patients as a staff nurse at the Royal Hospital Donnybrook from 2003 until 2014, was facing allegations relating to the possession of crystal meth, of ordering Sudafed using the names of several colleagues and of failing to inform his employer that he was under Garda investigation.

Sanctions will be determined at a later date.

The ongoing disciplinary inquiry at the Nursing Board headquarters in Blackrock, Dublin heard in December that an ingredient in Sudafed, pseudoephedrine, can be used in the making of crystal meth.

During the inquiry on Friday , two health care assistants said they were ‘shocked’ that Mr de Lara ordered Sudafed in their names.

An expert witness also told the inquiry that ordering medications in someone else’s name without their consent was ‘wholly inappropriate’.

She added that a nurse who knowingly breaks the law brings the whole profession into disrepute.

Two healthcare assistants who worked with Mr de Lara on Friday said they were both ‘shocked’ when they were told by their manager that Mr de Lara had used their names to order Sudafed on May 23rd 2013.

Edwin Palaez, who was out of the country in May 2013, said he was upset and shocked to find out that Mr de Lara had used his name to order Sudafed.

‘I was upset because I knew John on the ward,’ Mr Palaez said. ‘I liked him as a colleague”

Nicholas Mallari also said he was shocked and surprised to find out his name had been used to order Sudafed.

Referring to Mr de Lara, Mr Mallari said: “He’s a nice person. He’s a good colleague. He’s a good nurse.

Expert witness Rita Gallagher, a director of nursing who chairs the Irish National Extended Care Medicine Association, said trust is a key aspect of working with colleagues and providing care to patients, and that using colleagues' names to order Sudafed without their consent constituted "a breach of trust".

“Trust is a very important aspect of nursing,” Ms Gallagher said.

“In the professional code of conduct, trust is a core value. If trust is broken, it constitutes a serious falling short of the conduct expected of a nurse.”

Mr de Lara chose to not give evidence on Friday, and his legal counsel, barrister John McGuigan, said he would not be calling any further witnesses.

In his closing arguments, Mr McGuigan said Mr de Lara came to Ireland to work as a nurse "and he has cared throughout those years for some of the most elderly and vulnerable patients in the State".

He added that Mr de Lara “was popular with colleagues and effective with patients”.

Mr McGuigan said Mr de Lara admitted to using two of his colleagues’ names for ordering Sudafed, and that the hospital knew about that in May 2013 – but that this did not break the trust that his colleagues placed in him, and he continued to work there until the summer of 2014, when news of the criminal investigation became known.

He argued that some of the evidence from pharmacist Dr Patterson seemed to be in complete contradiction with evidence given by many of the health care assistants who have spoken at the inquiry this week.

Referring to his client, Mr McGuigan said Mr de Lara “recognised how stupid he has been” and “is not a user of drugs”.

Last December, the inquiry heard that in March 2014 Mr de Lara was arrested by An Garda Siochana following a search of a flat on Marlborough Road in Donnybrook.

During the search, Mr de Lara arrived at the flat and put a bag of something into his mouth, which he later spat out at the request of a garda. The substance in the bag was later identified as just over 2.4 grams of crystal meth. The following day, Mr de Lara was charged with possession of a controlled drug, namely methamphetamine.

The case was heard before the district court, where the charges against Mr de Lara were dismissed, after he paid €1,000 to a charity.