A B.C. Supreme Court judge has partially certified a class-action suit against a provincial health authority over the actions of a notorious “fake nurse.”
Brigitte Cleroux, who does not have a nursing degree, worked at the B.C. Women’s Hospital between June 1, 2020, and June 23, 2021, when she was fired over her false credentials. According to the ruling posted Wednesday, her work involved about 1,150 patients. Previous filings indicate she directly gave care to 899 patients in her time at the hospital.
Among those patients was Miranda Massie, who launched the proposed class action suit against the Provincial Health Services Authority, which operates the hospital, alleging negligence and liability for battery and breach of privacy. Massie’s proposed class action also included evidence from five other patients, whose names have been protected.
‘Fake’ B.C. nurse used fraudulent cheque as ID, court documents allege
In his decision, Justice K. Michael Stephens found that because Cleroux interacted with so many patients in different capacities, resulting in widely different experiences, claims of negligence and battery would be better argued as individual legal actions rather than as a class.
However, he ruled that the class action can proceed on the claims of breach of privacy, vicarious liability and the request for punitive damages.
“The evidence before me suggests that Ms. Cleroux, who was unlicensed nurse, nevertheless was permitted by the PHSA to work in a nursing role with patients in a private medical setting, reviewed medical records, and in a nursing role had physical contact with and personally observed putative class members in a clinical setting during their hospital stay for gynecological procedures,” Stephens ruled.
“In my view, the issue is how Ms. Cleroux came to be hired by the PHSA as a nurse at the BCWH, and was permitted to do what she did at the hospital, was sufficiently reprehensible or highhanded to attract a punitive damages award.”
The certification decision does not rule on the merits of the case, the facts of which have yet to be proven at trial.
Woman who posed as fake nurse faces new charges in Vancouver
PHSA told the court that Cleroux, who worked under the false name Melanie Smith, claimed to be a trained procedural sedation nurse, and worked as a general duty nurse performing patient admission, taking vital signs, observing patient symptoms and breathing, administering intravenous medication, and participating in the discharge process pre-operation section in the gynecological services program.
Massie claims she was treated by Cleroux in January 2021 related to a gynecological surgery, and learned Cleroux was an unlicensed nurse in a letter from PHSA in November that year.
“The plaintiff complains that Ms. Cleroux was present and made observations of her in a very private medical procedure and had access to her medical records and medical information,” the suit claims.
The suit cites other alleged experiences with Cleroux from other proposed class members, including receiving medication administered in a painful way, having blood taken in an uncomfortable manner, receiving sedation and fentanyl, and discussing private medical information.
Court filing says fake nurse worked for months at B.C. hospital despite several complaints
In its response to the civil claim, PHSA argued it should not be liable for “Cleroux’s fraud,” which it said was “abhorrent, [and] unauthorized.”
The health authority argued it “has not in any way tried and is not trying now to evade or avoid responsibility,” but that certification of a class action was not appropriate due to the circumstances of the case.
PHSA said it would not comment on the ruling, as the matter remains before the courts.
Filings submitted in court as a part of the suit last fall revealed more disturbing details of Cleroux’s employment with the hospital.
Those claims allege administrators at B.C. Women’s Hospital never sought government ID when they hired Cleroux. Instead, they allege the employer accepted a photocopy of a personal cheque from Cleroux, on which she had whited out her name at the top and written in the name “Melanie Smith.”
The suit further claims the hospital did not vet Cleroux’s references, which were made up of phone numbers and GMail addresses, but included no professional or business information.
The lawsuit claims Cleroux was hired by fraudulently using the name of a real nurse who was employed at Vancouver General Hospital, but was on maternity leave, and that PHSA did not contact VGH for information.
‘Fake nurse’ investigation could lead to further charges
It claims PHSA further failed to confirm Cleroux’s credentials with the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives, and didn’t look into a discrepancy when the nursing registration number she provided returned a different name in the college’s database.
In a response to the civil claim filed in June 2022, the health authority denied that it knew or should have known Cleroux was not legally qualified to work as a nurse, and said she had a string of other false identities which fooled agencies in Ontario and Alberta as well.
“Cleroux deliberately defrauded and deceived PHSA in order to gain employment,” it stated, adding her claim that her nursing registration number wasn’t immediately available because she had moved from Ontario wasn’t unusual, and that it had Checked a nurse named Melanie Smith was licensed in B.C.
None of the claims have been proven in court.
Cleroux, who originally hails from Gatineau, Que., was sentenced to seven years in prison in April 2022 after pleading guilty to criminal negligence causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, impersonation and using forged documents over a similar scheme in Ottawa.
She still faces 17 criminal charges in B.C. related to her activities in Vancouver.
© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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Clean Production Action, a nonprofit organization that aims to design and deliver strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials, and environmentally preferable products, recently unveiled the first GreenScreen Certified Standard for Medical Supplies & Devices, developed by healthcare providers, medical product manufacturers, scientists, and environmental groups. NewGen Surgical is the first company to achieve the GreenScreen Certified Standard for medical supplies and devices.
The standard applies to a wide range of both consumable and durable products used in healthcare, such as bandages, gauze, home healthcare supplies, catheters, blood pressure cuffs, surgical gloves, bedpans, crutches, hospital beds, and wheelchairs. It details criteria that manufacturers must meet to prove that their products do not contain chemicals with known negative impacts to human health and the environment. To demonstrate adherence to the standard, manufacturers will have to meet testing requirements and utilize a third-party analytical lab.
NewGen Surgical's surgical ring basin received a Bronze+ certification. The basin is sustainably designed with a 100% renewable biobased material free of intentionally added BPA or BPA-derived plastics, mercury, phthalates, PVC, and PFAs, and reduces CO2 by 80%.
NewGen Surgical’s co-founder Robert Chase noted in prepared remarks that his company is on a mission to lead the healthcare sector in the transition to OR products that eliminate plastic and are free of chemicals of concern. “The GreenScreen certification process provides product transparency for consumers and a roadmap for manufacturers. We will be pursuing GreenScreen certification for all NewGen Surgical products, and this initial certification is a great start,” he stated.
Attorneys representing Florida are pushing back against an attempt to establish a class-action lawsuit centered around the contentious issue of new laws targeting medical treatments for transgender people.
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In an ongoing legal battle, the state has submitted a comprehensive 28-page court filing aimed at dissuading U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle from granting certification to a class action in the lawsuit brought forward on behalf of transgender children and adults.
The lawsuit targets the newly enacted law, Senate Bill 254 (SB 254), championed by Governor Ron DeSantis. This law has garnered widespread controversy as it institutes a ban on medical practitioners from administering treatments such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers to transgender children. Moreover, the law extends its reach by imposing restrictions on treatments for adults diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
RELATED: Transgender people in Florida consider moving out of state as new bills impact LGBTQ+ community
The lawsuit’s trajectory took a notable turn when, on July 21, a revised version was filed that sought class certification. This new version of the lawsuit aims to categorize plaintiffs into three potential classes depending on whether plaintiffs are children and certain other circumstances. In each class, it said “common questions of law and fact exist” that, in the plaintiffs’ view, justify class certification.
On Monday, lawyers representing the state opposed this strategy in their filed document. They argued that class certification primarily due to the perceived disparities among plaintiffs was “entirely inappropriate” in this case.
In their statement, they contended that the proposed classes presented by the plaintiffs lack “common legal or factual questions” substantial enough to warrant the endorsement of class certification.
As tensions continue to escalate, this legal confrontation serves as a critical focal point in the broader conversation about individual rights, state intervention, and the intersection of medical care and personal identity.
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Earlier this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admissions in higher education, commonly known as affirmative action, is unconstitutional.
The full impacts of the decision won’t be fully understood until years down the road, when several classes of students go through college application processes. However, the stress over it is already there, especially among the medical community.
In a world without affirmative action, its absence will mostly be felt among the most selective programs in the nation. That includes medical schools, like Aurora’s University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine.
“We get 10,000 applications a year,” said Dr. Jeff SooHoo, who oversees admissions for the college. “There are thousands of people in that applicant pool that could successfully navigate our medical school, and that would be great physicians, but we have a class of 184.”
That equals a less than 2 percent chance of getting accepted if you send in an application. And for people from historically underserved communities, this process can be even harder. So the school has used affirmative action to level the playing field.
“We've never assigned points or any specific advantage per se, to those attributes,” SooHoo said. “Rather, we've used someone's background to contextualize what their opportunities have been … Recognizing that applicants that are underrepresented in medicine have some historical disadvantages that maybe have played out in their education or in their opportunities for research, volunteer work, leadership, things like that.”
Medical schools across the country have used affirmative action because the demographics of medical experts often don’t match the demographics of their clients. At CU Anschutz, minority students make up 32 percent of the student population, which includes pre-med undergraduates and nursing students.
Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez-Fisher runs Ventanilla de Salud, a small clinic situated in the back corner of the Mexican consulate. As he spoke, the intercom would occasionally interrupt, beckoning Mexican immigrants to come forward to the front desk to submit passport documentation or car import requests.
“It is a program that is in every Mexican consulate in the United States, and some consulates in Canada and Central America,” Gonzalez-Fisher said. “This makes it the largest public health program for immigrants in the United States.”
Through the clinic, Gonzalez-Fisher advises Mexican immigrants on health issues, whether that’s navigating the American health care system, vaccinations, or screenings. He said the clinic sees anywhere between 12,000 to 17,000 people a year.
Gonzalez-Fisher said his work in the clinic helps bridge equity gaps among Latinos, a community with a historically low sense of trust in the medical system.
“We were screening for the knowledge about colorectal cancer screening, and we interviewed 70 people, one-on-one,” he said. “And it was very interesting to see that there's still this fatalistic idea about cancer, [like,] ‘If I have cancer, I'm going to die.’”
These kinds of health disparities and misconceptions are common among Gonzalez-Fisher’s patients. They became especially apparent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. State data shows Hispanic people have the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rate among ethnic groups with just over 50 percent, and that’s just for the first dose.
SooHoo said Anschutz wants to admit diverse students because of the positive impacts that more doctors of color would have on underserved communities.
“Patients from minority groups actually have better health outcomes when they're taken care of by someone that looks like them, that speaks their same native language, that comes from their neighborhood or socioeconomic group,” SooHoo said. “Those patients actually do better.”
Gonzalez-Fisher worries health crises will get worse as the full effects of the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action becomes clear.
“There's more Latino doctors retiring than Latinos coming into medical school,” Gonzalez-Fisher said.
For the Latino and other minority students trying to replace the retirees, the end of affirmative actions has made their paths a bit murkier.
It took a long time for Metropolitan State University of Denver senior Julianna Montoya to figure out what she wanted. A first-generation college student, Montoya initially wanted to go into sports journalism. Then, she realized her future was in the health care field. So, not knowing what to do, she became a nursing student.
“I realized, gosh, [nursing] isn't for me. This isn't what I want,” Montoya recalled. “From the beginning, I would've tailored my education to be a lot more condensed and to focus on the things that I'm passionate about and not be so focused on having to figure out all the puzzle pieces that come with academia and higher education.”
Montoya is now pursuing her undergraduate degree in public health and hopes to get a masters in public health to become a physician's assistant, which is a licensed medical professional who mostly works in primary care settings performing tasks like diagnosing illnesses, ordering lab tests, and prescribing medicine.
When she starts applying to graduate programs later this year, she’ll be among the first to undergo that process in a world without affirmative action.
“I, in my application, always told myself I would be well-rounded. I would represent every facet of my life, the things that are very important to me. And again, one of them being I am first generation, I am Latina,” she said. “To not be able to put that important piece on there that has defined a very fundamental part of me does worry me. I do worry about my chances moving forward. Are they going to see the whole picture of the person that they're going to be admitting to their program, who will go on to do great things in medicine?”
Current CU Anschutz medical student India Bonner also took her time. After an undergraduate career that spanned across three different Colorado universities, it took her two attempts to get admitted into medical school.
She worries the ruling against affirmative action will negatively impact future classes of medical students. She got into medicine because she felt unrepresented in health care settings.
“The Supreme Court's decision really took a lot of steps back because even with affirmative action, there was still a lack of diversity and now there's another barrier to people of color becoming physicians,” Bonner said.
Both Bonner and Montoya spent some time finding their feet before committing to the health care profession. The goal was clearer to Dr. Prashanth Francis, a liver doctor and research scientist with the CU School of Medicine.
A first-generation Indian American, Francis always wanted to be a doctor. In high school, he ended up leaving early to enroll in a specialized academy for kids who wanted to pursue STEM careers.
Now, as an assistant professor and a former president of Anschutz’s Minority and Allied Resident Council, he sees the flaw in the logic that being the best academic mind is the only important thing for doctors to strive for.
“Now that I'm on the other side of medical training, I see the difference in what somebody who's on the front end trying to get into medical school thinks is valuable for the field of medicine and then what somebody who is actually practicing medicine finds to be valuable,” Francis said.
In describing what he values in medical students, Francis recalled one of the most popular television doctors of the 2000s. One who’s brilliant, but abrasive — to put it mildly.
“Medicine would absolutely collapse if everybody was like [Hugh Laurie’s character Gregory] ‘House M.D.’,” he said. “We really need people who can understand the science, can gather all the information, but who are excellent at establishing relationships with patients.”
SooHoo, the CU Anschutz admissions director, hopes students like Bonner and Montoya — who have otherwise stellar academic records and a desire to serve underrepresented communities — continue to apply to medical school. But with affirmative action gone, he’s thinking a less competitive applicant pool will emerge.
“I would say to an applicant from any group that's qualified and ready to apply, that you should apply, be yourself,” SooHoo said. “It was never a single thing or a single check mark that got you into medical school, and it's not going to be in the future.”
Still, Gonzalez-Fisher said getting through medical school will be tough for those who do make it in, for the same reasons people of color needed affirmative action in the first place.
“Sometimes they don't have the opportunities to shadow their teachers or to participate in clinical research or things because they don't have time, because they have to work, they have to take care of a family. So it's going to be harder,” Gonzalez-Fisher said. “It's going to be harder, but we will find ways.”
Lawyers nationwide are reviewing the complete ruling to figure out how schools may move forward with their mission to admit diverse students while following the new SCOTUS ruling. The initial effect of the ruling is expected to start becoming apparent later this year, when college applications are due.
If 100 respected medical journals all reported that people around the world could do one particular thing to drastically Boost their long-term health prospects, I suspect there would be a global rush to get that one thing done. The response might be uneven; some countries would do more to persuade their citizens to take up that particular healthful thing than others. But because medical journals tend to be fact- and data-driven, and because they tend to be restrained and careful in their judgements, healthful-thing programs would likely spring up, almost everywhere.
So it’ll be interesting to see how the leaders of the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea respond, now that over 100 top medical journals have called for urgent action to reduce the risk of nuclear war. In an editorial appearing in multiple publications—including the esteemed Journal of the American Medical Association, the British Medical Journal, and The Lancet—11 editors of leading medical and health journals and other medical experts have called on health professionals “to alert the public and our leaders to this major danger to public health and the essential life support systems of the planet—and urge action to prevent it.”
“Once a nuclear weapon is detonated, escalation to all-out nuclear war could occur rapidly,” the co-authors wrote. “The prevention of any use of nuclear weapons is therefore an urgent public health priority and fundamental steps must also be taken to address the root cause of the problem—by abolishing nuclear weapons.”
The editorial advocates that the nine nuclear-armed countries and their allies adopt no-first-use policies and take their nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. In what could be seen as a reference to Russia, the editorial also urges that countries involved in current conflicts pledge publicly and unequivocally not to use nuclear weapons. In a more ambitious (and potentially more provocative) vein, the piece also proposes that the nuclear-armed nations work toward a definitive end to the nuclear threat through negotiations “for a verifiable, timebound agreement to eliminate their nuclear weapons in accordance with commitments in the [Non-Proliferation Treaty], opening the way for all nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
The editorial begins with a reference to the Bulletin’s Doomsday Clock, now set at 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to catastrophe, and ends with a ringing call for immediate action to reduce the nuclear threat: “The danger is great and growing. The nuclear armed states must eliminate their nuclear arsenals before they eliminate us. The health community played a decisive part during the Cold War and more recently in the development of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. We must take up this challenge again as an urgent priority, working with renewed energy to reduce the risks of nuclear war and to eliminate nuclear weapons.”
I will report any responses from the leaders of the world’s nuclear-armed nations to this public health advice, as I see them.