27 April 2023

Nurse who stole from patient's wife at Bega hospital disqualified for a year

| Albert McKnight
South East Regional Hospital

Samuel Gerrit John Scheggetman stole from a patient’s wife at South East Regional Hospital in 2020. Photo: Facebook.

A man who was employed as a nurse at Bega’s hospital when he stole from the wife of a patient has been disqualified from working in his profession for 12 months.

Samuel Gerrit John Scheggetman had been working at the South East Regional Hospital while the patient was being treated for dementia.

The patient’s wife arrived for a visit on 25 June 2020 and left her handbag in her husband’s room while she took him for a walk.

Meanwhile, Scheggetman stole $300 cash and two bank cards from her handbag, then used them to make about 19 purchases that afternoon which totalled almost $1200.

The wife learned of the theft that evening. Her husband died the next month.

Later in 2020, Scheggetman, who was then aged 42 and lived in Bermagui, pleaded guilty to and was convicted on charges that included seven counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception and a single count of larceny.

He was fined $7200, ordered to pay $300 compensation to the wife and placed on a three-year community corrections order. The fine was reduced to $2400 on appeal.

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Afterwards, the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) complained to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, arguing Scheggetman had been convicted of his charges and was guilty of unsatisfactory professional conduct.

The HCCC alleged he had failed to tell the relevant authority that he had been convicted and asked the tribunal to make a cancellation order with a one year non‑review period to protect the public.

In the tribunal’s published decision from 18 April 2023, it wrote Scheggetman had conceded the complaints against him, although he claimed he didn’t know he had to notify the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency after he was convicted.

During the hearing for the matter, he had been asked about how around $600 of the purchases he made on the wife’s bank card went to cigarettes and alcohol.

“[He] stated that he did not drink very much, and conceded he had bought the alcohol for the purposes of onselling. He stated he smokes about 50 cigarettes per day,” the tribunal said.

He wrote a letter for the tribunal, saying he wanted to apologise for “the insidious act of larceny”.

“I have studied hard to become an enrolled nurse and I fear that all my efforts have gone to waste through my foolish criminal act,” he wrote.

“To become a nurse, registration requires stringent background and police checks. I may be refused registration due to a criminal conviction.”

He lost his job in 2020 and was no longer registered as a nurse, as he had not sought to have his registration renewed.

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The HCCC argued his crimes were an abuse of his position, “by taking advantage of the public’s trust in the medical profession and the presumption that nurses will act honestly”.

Also, the commission said as the patient died a short time afterwards, his wife would have had to deal with the loss of her money at a time of significant difficulty for her.

The tribunal found Scheggetman had shown “a great deal of remorse and insight”, but his behaviour was “serious and, in a sense, calculated”.

It was important to send a message to nurses that this sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated and “vulnerable people need to be protected by nurses and not subject to abuse”, the tribunal said.

It found the complaints proved and said he was to be disqualified from becoming registered as a nurse for 12 months. He must also pay the HCCC’s legal costs.

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