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Nurse feared poisoning by colleagues court hears

MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013

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The wife of a nurse at the centre of misconduct allegations says her husband was being bullied by senior nurses at Wellington Hospital and was afraid of being poisoned.

Izuchi Ofoleta told the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday that she provided a fake reference for her husband by pretending to be a head nurse at the hospital because she was afraid for his safety.

She acted alone, and without his knowledge, she said.

But the tribunal's professional conduct committee says intensive care nurse Kelechi Ofoleta set up his wife to impersonate a head nurse, Cheryl Davidson, in order to get him a job with IT company Intergen.

It says Mr Ofoleta did this because he had a poor relationship with bosses and colleagues. He had up to 25 internal complaints against him over 5 years, involving intimidation, poor patient care, and disrespecting female co-workers.

In his defence yesterday, lawyer Nicola Craig said Mrs Ofoleta had acted without his knowledge, emailing Intergen with fake details for Cheryl Davidson and posing as her without his authorisation.

In her evidence, Mrs Ofoleta said she was deeply concerned about her husband's work environment. His performance was fine but his bosses were racist, she said.

Someone kept taking his food out of the fridge and putting it next to the sink, which gave rise to poisoning fears, she said.

The worst incident was when a manager pushed her husband out of his office and was not disciplined, she said.

Earlier, the tribunal heard evidence from ICU nursing head Stephen James that he had shut the door in Mr Ofoleta's face once, after a meeting in which Mr Ofoleta threatened to hurt his family because he had been declined leave.

Mrs Ofoleta maintained that she decided to pose as Ms Davidson because an intervention was long overdue.

"All I did was to save my family, my marriage and our lives."

On Monday, the tribunal was told that one of Mr Ofoleta's performance issues involved him making $5000 worth of toll calls to Nigeria. It was confirmed yesterday this was more like $3000, and that Mr Ofoleta had made arrangements with the hospital to pay it back.

DHB surgery, women's and children's health human resources manager Valerie McHardy said the hospital had tried mediation with Mr Ofoleta many times, including during the months leading up to his resignation in October last year.

Previous employment issues with Mr Ofoleta had involved police, she said.

Tribunal chairman David Carden called a halt to proceedings to tell Mr Ofoleta to stop trying to intimidate Ms McHardy by staring at her.

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- The Dominion Post

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