A woman who had just come out of a coma after losing her baby was sexually abused by a hospital orderly who claimed to be her life-saving doctor.
The man, who was sacked by Waitemata District Health Board, was Friday sentenced to six months’ community detention, with the judge saying he had acted dishonestly and describing the offending as “despicable”.
The victim – who cannot be named for legal reasons – says she suffered post traumatic stress disorder and is now riddled with fear when left alone.
“It makes me feel disgusting,” she told the Herald on Sunday.
Early last year, the woman was rushed to hospital where she was treated for blood poisoning after a miscarriage three days prior.
She was put on life support for three days and then transferred to North Shore Hospital.
“I remember waking up feeling groggy, and there was man sitting at the end of my bed. He was wearing scrubs and he had a name badge,” the woman said.
“He asked me if I remembered him, I said I didn’t, and he told me he was the doctor who saved my life.”
The court on Friday heard that the man wasn’t a doctor but was employed as a casual hospital orderly – who assists doctors and nurses. It was also revealed in court that he was married and had two adult children.
“I understand his wife isn’t impressed,” defence lawyer Tiffany Cooper said.
Neither his wife, nor any other support person was in court with the offender.
In court, Cooper said the man disputed that he pretended to be the woman’s doctor, arguing he only said he helped save her life as he wheeled her into the emergency department.
It was accepted there was an element of dishonesty, Cooper said.
The victim told the Herald on Sunday she didn’t question the “fake doctor” because a nurse had been in the room the whole time and he was wearing a uniform and name badge.
He requested her phone number, telling her that he wanted to call her and check up on her after she was discharged from hospital.
“I gave it to him because I thought he was my doctor and had no reason not to trust him. I just thought he really cared about his patients.”
A couple of weeks after being discharged from hospital, the woman was house-sitting for a friend north of Auckland when the man called her. He had been contacting her daily to check up on her.
The woman said she mentioned that she was stuck trying to find a ride back to Auckland city and he offered her a lift.
“He picked me up and while he was driving he started to touch me inappropriately … I asked him to stop and he just pretended it was normal.
“I wanted to get out and call my mum but I couldn’t. It was a 40-minute ride but it felt like four hours.
“It was horrible. I got him to drop me at a motel and I grabbed my bags and just ran.”
The next day she saw her counsellor and relayed the abuse. Her counsellor encouraged her to report it to the police.
“I didn’t want to relive the trauma, I just wanted to forget it but my counsellor told me she had a legal obligation to report it to police if I didn’t.”
Initially, she said police warned her it was a case of “he said, she said” and a prosecution would be difficult without any proof.
On Friday, more than 19 months after the attack, she stood in the same room as her offender at Auckland District Court and read out her victim impact statement.
“I have thought over and over again on whether I would be able to stand here in front of people and speak without being judged, say things out loud and expose myself in this way, but I am and hope you can understand the effect it has had on myself,” she told the man in court.
One of the biggest impacts was being declined entrance to the NZ Navy due to having suffered PTSD, a goal she had been working towards for years, she said.
“I pushed away family as I felt ashamed. I pushed away male friends, even those I had known for over 20 years. I lost confidence in myself. I had bad eating habits from the PTSD … all in all this incident has affected me as a whole person inside and out.”
Judge Russell Collins said it took a lot of courage for the victim to speak in court.
The man pleaded guilty to indecent sexual assault at an earlier hearing.
“It is inexplicable, at [your age] without any previous offending it simply makes your offending inexplicable,” Judge Collins told him.
No matter how you did it, you used your position as an employee at a hospital to make contact, pursue and offend against someone who was a vulnerable patient, Collins said.
The Crown said the man should be jailed for the offence.
He was instead sentenced to six months’ community detention which would allow him to continue to work and provide for his family. He was now working at a supermarket stacking shelves and helping in the bakery section.
He was also granted interim name suppression, which will be reviewed next month.
Speaking to the Herald on Sunday after sentencing, the victim said she was frustrated that he was still about to work in a community environment but now that it had been dealt with it was a huge weight of her shoulders.
“I have a huge sense of relief,” she said.
A Waitemata DHB spokesman said the DHB took a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of assault.
“The former staff member in question worked for the DHB in a casual capacity for a period of around five months.
“Upon learning of the allegation against him, Waitematā DHB immediately suspended the person and they never returned to work in our facilities.”
The spokesman said there were no other complaints about this individual during his employment with the DHB.
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