The lawsuits claim the Provincial Health Services Authority and the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives were negligent in hiring practices and nurse oversight.
Dozens of lawsuits alleging poor nurse hiring practices and alleged abuses by one woman have been filed against B.C.’s Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) and the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM).
Twenty-eight notices of civil claim were filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 21 in connection with fraud and assaults alleged to have been perpetrated at B.C. Women’s Hospital (BCWH) by Brigitte Denise Cleroux, 41.
She is currently before the courts facing criminal charges of assault and fraud in connection with the situation.
The new suits claim Cleroux was employed at the hospital in B.C. Women’s Gynecological Surgical Services as a registered nurse from about June 1 to June 30, 2020.
The claims allege Cleroux’s presence at the hospital and her nurse’s uniform led plaintiffs to believe she was qualified to care for them.
The claims said the plaintiffs would not have consented to care had they known Cleroux was not licensed or qualified.
The suits assert Cleroux was involved in:
- pre-operative care;
- operating room care;
- post-operative care;
- administering or directing medication;
- administering intravenous fluids;
- monitoring and managing patient fluids during operations;
- providing post-operative advice and direction, and;
- determining discharge times.
The suits claim the plaintiffs suffered embarrassment, mental distress and psychological upset as a result of the alleged situation.
They said the PHSA sent a Nov. 29, 2021 letter informing plaintiffs Cleroux had participated in their care and had no valid licence.
“The plaintiff later learned that in fact Cleroux was a complete fraud and has never held a valid licence as a nurse in any jurisdiction at any time,” the claims said.
The plaintiffs are seeking general, aggravated, special and punitive damages. They also seek compensation for loss of past and future earning capacity.
The suits claim Cleroux did not have the necessary accreditation, licensing or qualifications to be employed in B.C.
The claims said Cleroux provided false documentation or credentials that the PHSA ought to have known were false.
The claims further assert Cleroux was not registered with the college, which has a verification process for the checking of credentials. PHSA failed to do that despite an obligation to do so, state the court documents.
Further, the claims said, the college had the responsibility for doing criminal record checks.
“For many years prior to becoming employed at BCWH, Cleroux had an extensive history of using forged credentials to work in a fraudulent capacity as a nurse or other professions,” the claims said. “Much of this information is a matter of public record. All this information was available to the defendant PHSA had it exercised a reasonable level of diligence.”
The suits claim the PHSA and college were negligent in the situation, and that the PHSA is vicariously liable for Cleroux’s alleged deceit.
The criminal allegations
Cleroux was recently returned from Ontario and faced a B.C. Supreme Court judge Nov. 15. Until then, she had appeared repeatedly by video in Vancouver Provincial Court via video from Ontario.
She is facing 19 charges in Vancouver of assault, assault with a weapon, fraud over $5,000, using forged documents and impersonation with intent to gain advantage.
Crown prosecutor Daniel Mulligan said Cleroux allegedly impersonated a nurse and treated hundreds of people. He said he was unsure if all those people would be witnesses.
On Vancouver Island, Cleroux has been charged with fraud over $5,000, impersonation, use of forged documents and assault in connection with a View Royal medical clinic, RCMP confirmed. The alleged offence took place in 2020.
Meanwhile, a court information sworn in Surrey April 27 alleges Cleroux defrauded a man of money in excess of $5,000 between Aug. 24, 2019 and Feb. 29, 2020. That information further alleges that, between April 5, 2019 and March 4, 2020, Cleroux fraudulently impersonated a woman with intent to gain advantage for herself.
The Surrey and Victoria cases are not part of those being heard in Vancouver.
Vancouver lawyer Guillaume Garih is Cleroux’s seventh lawyer, according to court documents.
The cases come after a B.C. Supreme Court judge in July certified a class action in connection with the situation with the health authority as the defendant.
Justice Michael Stephens said claims against the PHSA for negligence and battery would be particular to each person and be more appropriately dealt with in individual trials.
“Each of the class members likely had different experiences with Ms. Cleroux, given the variety of her nursing tasks,” Stephens wrote.
“However, for the claim of breach of privacy and the PHSA’s related alleged vicarious liability, and punitive damages, I find that there are common issues and a class action is a preferable procedure for the prosecution of such a claim, and I certify a class action on this basis,” Stephens said.
In the class action, Stephens said the representative plaintiff, Miranda Massie, said about 150 people claiming they are proposed class members have contacted the law firm handling the case.
Ministry of Health response
B.C.’s Ministry of Health said it could not respond to an issue before the courts.
In a statement to Glacier Media, the ministry said matters of professional misconduct are taken very seriously.
“The Ministry of Health along with the Provincial Health Services Authority are committed to providing patients with the highest quality of care,” it said. “We expect all employees to hold themselves to the highest standards of professional conduct and are committed to upholding the values of respect and compassion for our patients and our employees, leaders and physicians.”
The ministry said regulatory colleges under the Health Professions Act govern regulated health professions. Those colleges have the ability to restrict the licence of a health professional that poses a significant risk to the public or a patient, who has committed an act of misconduct, or who is not competent to practice safely, the ministry said.
The act and the 2022 Health Professions and Occupations Act, while not yet in force, include mechanisms to take action against people who commit very serious harmful actions, noted the ministry’s statement.
That now includes being able to take action against individuals who are falsely claiming to be a health-care professional with fines and/or imprisonment through the Provincial Court of British Columbia.
BCCNM spokesperson Johanna Ward also told Glacier Media the college couldn’t speak specifically to the claims made in the court filings as the matter is before the courts.
But, she said, the college regulates nurses and midwives in B.C. and only individuals who have met the registration requirements, and once registered, continue to meet the requirements for renewal can use the protected titles like registered nurse, registered psychiatric nurse, licensed practical nurse, nurse practitioner or midwife.
“If BCCNM becomes aware that an individual who is not registered with BCCNM uses a protected title, BCCNM may take any number of steps, including demanding an individual stop using a protected title, publishing public notices to warn the public, up to seeking an injunction in court to prohibit an individual from using a title they are not entitled to use,” she said.
She said the college posted such a notice about Cleroux in June 2021.
As well, Ward said, the college must keep a register of all registrants so that potential employers and members of the public can verify that an individual has met all requirements for registration and has current registration with BCCNM.
“Employers are responsible for checking the register,” she said.