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Fake nurse at centre of proposed class-action lawsuit against B.C. health authority

Click to play video: 'B.C. women treated by ‘fake’ nurse speak out, and explore legal action' B.C. women treated by ‘fake’ nurse speak out, and explore legal action
Women who have been informed they were treated by an unlicensed imposter posing as a nurse are coming forward with questions about how it could have happened. Rumina Daya reports – Dec 14, 2021

An imposter nurse who worked at B.C. Women’s Hospital is the subject of a proposed class-action lawsuit against the Provincial Health Services Authority.

The notice of civil claim, filed on behalf of plaintiff Miranda Massie in B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday, alleges that anyone who was a patient at B.C. Women’s from June 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 suffered battery when Brigitte Cleroux, administered treatments in the absence of legal consent.

“As a result of learning that Cleroux was not a registered nurse, many Class Members sustained mental distress and nervous shock all of which was foreseeable to the PHSA,” the document claims.

“At all material times, PHSA was vicariously liable for the actions of Cleroux who was employed by the PHSA.”

None of the allegations has been tested in court and a statement of defence has not been filed.

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Read more: Woman charged after falsely posing as nurse in B.C. hospital for a year: police

Cleroux is also facing numerous criminal charges and has a long history of flouting the law.

On Nov. 25, Vancouver police announced that the 49-year-old had been charged with fraud over $5,000 and personation with intent after she allegedly provided care to patients at the hospital while using the name of a real nurse. Cleroux has not completed nursing school or held a valid nursing license anywhere in Canada.

It was not immediately clear how many patients she had worked with, what duties or services she had provided, or whether there had been any adverse outcomes relating to her work. It was later revealed she had also briefly worked at View Royal Surgical Centre on Vancouver Island.

In Ontario, she faces charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, obtaining by false pretence, uttering forged documents and personation to gain advantage after she allegedly presented herself as a nurse at a medical and dental clinic in Ottawa where she administered medications and injections to patients.

Click to play video: 'Woman accused of impersonating nurse at B.C. Woman’s Hospital' Woman accused of impersonating nurse at B.C. Woman’s Hospital
Woman accused of impersonating nurse at B.C. Woman’s Hospital – Nov 25, 2021

Massie’s notice of civil claim alleges that, for many years before Cleroux was hired at B.C. Women’s, she had an extensive history of using forged credentials to work illegally as a nurse.

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“Much of this information is a matter of public record,” reads the suit. “This information was readily available to PHSA had it exercised a reasonable level of diligence.”

At the time of Vancouver charges being announced, the health authority said in statement that “an individual representing themselves as a licenced RN” was no longer employed with the hospital.

“We can assure the public that we are reviewing this matter fully to determine how this occurred, any internal processes that may have contributed to it, and impact to patients,” a spokesperson said.

Read more: Quebec woman fired after working 20 years as hospital nurse without a license

The lawsuit claims it was clear before then that Cleroux had proven she was not competent to work as a registered nurse and that she “demonstrated lack of competency and ethics when interacting with patients.”

Massie also alleges that PHSA ignored complaints about her relating to her competency and ethics.

Among other things, the plaintiff is seeking punitive damages, arguing that PHSA’s actions were “outrageous, reckless, wanton, without care, (and) callous.”

Click to play video: 'VPD confirms fraudulent nurse worked at BC Women’s Hospital' VPD confirms fraudulent nurse worked at BC Women’s Hospital
VPD confirms fraudulent nurse worked at BC Women’s Hospital – Nov 25, 2021

Letters have been sent to affected patients who are slowly going public to discuss what they’ve learned and how it’s impacted them.

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Chaelene Peeren, who underwent surgery to treat endometriosis at B.C. Women’s, said she found it hard to accept what she read in her letter, saying “to find out the trust I had put in the team … was violated — I can’t describe how that felt.”

Read more: Kelowna, B.C. woman struggling to come to terms with being treated by fake nurse

In June, the British Columbia College of Nurses and Midwives issued a public advisory about a woman calling herself Melanie Smith, Melanie Thompson or Melanie Cleroux who was falsely holding herself out as a registered nurse.

It reminded all employers “in all practice settings” of their obligation to verify the registration status of new employees via its nurse verification or midwife verification tool.

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