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Financial exploitation by community care worker (09HDC01375)
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(09HDC01375, 17 March
Community healthcare worker ~ Primary health organisation ~
District health board ~ Mental health ~ Community support ~
Financial exploitation ~ Right 2
A mental health patient complained that her community health
care worker had requested and accepted gifts from her that totalled
approximately $55,000. The patient was a vulnerable woman who had
issues with trust. The community healthcare worker first became
involved with the patient following a referral from the patient's
GP for assessment for community support. Initially the patient was
reluctant to accept input from the care worker but, over time, they
developed a trusting relationship.
The patient alleged that the care worker accepted numerous gifts
from her - initially small amounts of money, eg, $20 or $30 to help
pay for lunches and petrol, but then the gifts included clothes and
jewellery. The patient stated that the care worker subsequently
began asking for larger sums of money, including $5,000 on one
occasion and $20,000 on another. The patient also advised that she
bought the care worker electronic equipment worth approximately
$2,500 but the order was later cancelled.
The care worker accepted that the value of the money and gifts
may have totalled approximately $55,000. However, she denied ever
asking for any of the gifts. She submitted that she was under a lot
of stress in her life and felt manipulated by the patient.
The care worker's manager advised that she had been concerned
that the care worker was not documenting all of her visits with the
patient, and that she was spending too much time with her. The
manager maintains that she followed up these concerns with the care
worker but that the care worker ignored her emails and telephone
It was held that the care worker inappropriately accepted the
gifts and money knowing that the patient was vulnerable and relied
heavily on her for support. The care worker was found in breach of
Right 2 for abusing the trust placed in her by the patient.
The care worker's manager was also criticised for not taking
more assertive action.