PAMELA Usher stole credit cards and cheques from patients while working as a nurse at the Mackay Mater hospital. Her victims included a 100-year-old woman and an 89-year-old man.
She fraudulently paid for rent at a Blacks Beach property, for home furnishings, for her private phone bill and she also purchased $100 worth of tickets in the Endeavour Prize Home.
One of her elderly Mackay victims has since died.
The offences occurred over six weeks in December, 2008, and January, 2009.
Aged 60, her future as a registered nurse is yet to be determined by the South Australian Nurses Registration Board.
She was a registered nurse for 43 years and it wasn't until after relatives of the victims complained that it was discovered that Usher had a serious mental illness, which is still requiring treatment.
“I'm very ashamed and I'm very, very sorry,” she told the Daily Mercury outside the Mackay Courthouse yesterday.
She was able to avoid a jail sentence because the court accepted that she had a mental illness and personality disorder, which was well established and extremely difficult to address and which was also a severe and debilitating illness.
Since finishing work at the Mackay Mater hospital last year, Usher remarried in May. She now goes by the name Pamela Saffery and lives at Port Lincoln.
She was extradited from South Australia to Mackay and pleaded guilty yesterday to 15 offences of fraud and three of stealing.
Prosecutor Senior Constable Wayne Smith said one stolen credit card was used to pay $4052 in rent and $2000 to a removalist to have her furnishings moved from Blacks Beach to South Australia.
Another elderly victim had her credit card taken from her purse in her hospital bedside drawer; it was unlawfully used to pay $1113 in rent.
An 80-year-old woman's credit card had been stolen from a hospital bedside drawer and used to make internet purchases of some clothes, two sets of garden lights, a solar-powered bird bath and three sleeping cat-designed doormats. And a 100-year-old woman had a cheque stolen. It was used to pay $1000 in rent.
An 89-year-old man's stolen cheque paid for $7000 worth of rent in South Australia. A court in that state has already convicted Usher of that offence and has ordered her to repay the $7000.
Barrister John Aberdeen, of Legal Aid Queensland, said: “Most of her 43 years of nursing was in palliative care and she treated everyone with loving care.
“She's deeply ashamed of what happened.”
Usher is now on anti-depressants and a mood stabiliser. “She had a recognised mental illness at the time. Treatment has started and will probably continue for the rest of her days,” Mr Aberdeen said.
Usher was jailed for 15 months, wholly suspended for three years, and she was ordered to pay restitution totalling $10,592.
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