Sus­pected nurses re­main at hos­pi­tal

Manawatu Standard - - NEWS - HAR­RI­SON CHRIS­TIAN

Three nurses who are sus­pects in a po­lice homi­cide in­quiry are still em­ployed by the Coun­ties Manukau District Health Board.

A coroner’s in­quest into the death of Auck­land woman Heather Bills wrapped up in the Auck­land District Court on Fri­day.

Bills died in 2013 while in the care of Mid­dle­more Hos­pi­tal, hav­ing sur­vived an ex­plo­sive fire at her O¯ ra¯ kei home six weeks ear­lier.

Neigh­bours res­cued the 64-year-old from the blaze and she was ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tal with se­ri­ous burns.

Six weeks later, how­ever, she was dead, af­ter suf­fer­ing an ir­re­versible brain in­jury caused by a large dose of in­sulin.

The per­son who ad­min­is­tered the in­sulin dose to Bills re­mains a mys­tery.

Dur­ing the in­quest, po­lice re­vealed they have three sus­pects in their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion, all of whom are nurses that worked on Bills’ care.

Con­flict­ing ac­counts

Nurses who were wit­nesses at the in­quest gave con­flict­ing ac­counts of what hap­pened the night she suf­fered the fa­tal brain in­jury.

The in­quest was also told Bills had of­fered to pay hos­pi­tal staff to end her life.

On Fri­day, a spokes­woman for the Coun­ties Manukau District Health Board con­firmed it still em­ploys all three nurses.

‘‘In 2013, when Ms Bills died, the po­lice con­ducted a full in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­clud­ing in­ter­view­ing the staff who had con­tact with Ms Bills,’’ the spokes­woman said.

‘‘The po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion did not re­sult in a pros­e­cu­tion of any in­di­vid­ual. The district health board was also never ad­vised that the po­lice had any par­tic­u­lar con­cerns about the acts or omis­sions of any par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual.’’

Through the coro­nial process, the district health board had learnt for the first time that po­lice had three sus­pects, and it had no proof of wrong­do­ing by any of those staff, the spokes­woman said.

‘‘The district health board has obli­ga­tions to be a good em­ployer in ac­cor­dance with the State Ser­vices Act and must fol­low all the re­quire­ments of the laws pro­tect­ing em­ploy­ees in New Zealand.

‘‘In the ab­sence of any proof of wrong­do­ing, the district health board could not take ac­tion against an em­ployee.’’

The spokes­woman added: ‘‘The district health board is co-op­er­at­ing with the coroner’s process, as it did with the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

‘‘If fur­ther in­for­ma­tion comes to light through the in­quest process, or any other route, the district health board will con­sider that in­for­ma­tion and if ap­pro­pri­ate will act on it.’’

Apol­ogy made

On Wed­nes­day, the district health board apol­o­gised over Bills’ death, and re­vealed it wasn’t un­til a num­ber of days later that the pos­si­bil­ity of homi­cide was raised.

The act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of the district health board, Glo­ria John­son, who was chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer when Bills died, gave ev­i­dence at the in­quest.

‘‘I do want to take the op­por­tu­nity to say how in­cred­i­bly sorry I am, and I want to apol­o­gise on be­half of the district health board,’’ John­son said to Bills’ daugh­ter, Michelle Ma­her.

John­son added she still did not know how Bills came to be given the fa­tal dose.

In re­cent years, there has been a spate of mur­ders in Aus­tralia where in­sulin has been in­volved.

The coroner re­served her find­ings on Fri­day.

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