Jail hangs over Sunshine Coast nurse after workplace rort

SENTENCED: Deborah Douglas, 48 was injured while working in a nursing home in December 2012. It was what she failed to do after that that put her in hot water.
SENTENCED: Deborah Douglas, 48 was injured while working in a nursing home in December 2012. It was what she failed to do after that that put her in hot water. Bev Lacey

A NURSING assistant who lied to Workcover and fraudulently claimed insurance payments has been handed a suspended jail sentence and ordered to pay nearly $20,000 in compensation and legal costs.

Workcover discovered Deborah Douglas, 48, from Sippy Downs, had been working as a nanny - despite continuing to tell the insurer she was unable to work - when she lodged a damages claim.

Douglas was injured while working in a nursing home in December 2012.

Lawyer Amanda Meisenhelter said Workcover accepted Douglas's initial injury claim and she started receiving payments from December 27.

"If a person returns to a calling or engages in other employment while receiving compensation they have to notify Workcover, or whoever the insurer is, within 10 business days and if they don't have a reasonable excuse for not doing so it's deemed fraud," she said.

"In essence that is what Ms Douglas has done."

An investigation begun after Douglas lodged a damages claim uncovered time sheets showing she was working as a nanny soon after her injury, from January 3, 2013 through to May.

Douglas did not tell Workcover she had another job, and was actually on shift as a nanny when she told a Workcover representative she was unable to return to her original job.

"She made false and misleading statements about not being able to work at all, but it was also quite blatant in the fact that she was actually on shift at the time of that phone call," Ms Meisenhelter said.

Douglas pleaded guilty to fraud and providing false statements relating to conversations with Workcover representatives and doctors' certificates she provided saying she was unable to return to work, when she was at the time working in another job.

Solicitor Anna Smith said her client, who had been supporting her adult children in New Zealand, was struggling financially at the time, and received bad advice from her then-partner.

Ms Smith said Douglas's injury was genuine and still affected her capacity to work consistently and for long shifts as a nurse aide.

"When the injury occurred she instructs that it was her intention was to advise Workcover that she did have some work as a nanny and that it was light duties," she said.

"She was convinced by her partner at the time not to bother telling them because she would be unlikely to get enough money if she told them, to cover what she ordinarily would get when working at Regis and also when her work was so sporadic at (nanny agency) Charlton Brown.

"He told her he'd gotten work cover before and she'd 'have to be an idiot' to tell them about it."

Magistrate Rod Madsen said it was important people with legitimate claims were able to get Workcover payments promptly.

"And that system, to some extent, is undone when people such as yourself perpetrate these frauds," he said.

He handed Douglas a three-month suspended prison sentence and ordered her to repay $14,451.99 to Workcover.

She was also ordered to pay $5000 in legal costs.

Topics:  fraud insurance maroochydore magistrates court sippy downs workcover

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