Case of nurse suspected of poisoning reveals problems in information sharing among officials
Nurse has history of stealing medicines and setting fire in elevator
The case of a nurse suspected of several poisoning murders of people under her care has revealed a number of problems in the flow of information among different officials.
The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health (VALVIRA) says that the suspect probably would have lost her right to use the title of basic care nurse if Helsinki district Court had informed supervisory officials of a conviction for illegal drugs in 2006, as the law requires.
VALVIRA director Tarja Holi believes that after that, no employer would have been likely to offer her work as a nurse.
“However, she could have worked as a basic care nurse if hired directly by a client. Work would therefore have been possible, but more difficult”, Holi says.
Three years ago the suspect in the current murder investigation was given a suspended prison sentence by Helsinki District Court for stealing a large quantity of medicines form the Meilahti Hospital in Helsinki, and for trying to steal a patient’s wallet. Some of the medicines involved in the theft are classified as intoxicants.
District court judge Eero Takkunen admits that supervisory officials should have been informed, and he cannot explain why this did not happen.
The court has taken heed of the mistake and is drawing up a list of matters that need to be disclosed to various authorities about court verdicts.
The woman’s employers have not known about her previous problems, although it is standard practice in the field to ascertain an employee’s background, such as the previous place of work.
The Mehiläinen Hospital and the Central Union for the Welfare of the Aged did not know that the woman had been sacked from the Meilahti Hospital for setting a fire in a hospital lift.
“We go through the work history of every employee and ask for a recommendation from someone at the supervisory level, but it is not a flawless method”, says Jarmo Karpakka, medical director at Mehiläinen.
Employers in the medical profession are given access to the criminal history of job applicants only if the job involves interaction with children.
On Wednesday, Helsinki district Court decided to keep the nurse remanded in custody, turning down a third request to be released.
The court also refused a request for a transfer from the Pasila police jail to the Vantaa jail, where remand prisoners have more freedom.
Lawyer Heikki Palmela says that the woman continues to deny any criminal action.
“She feels that she has done her job, and has only wanted good for others”, Lampela says.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Police exhume body at cemetery in murder investigation (20.5.2009)