London: An Indian-origin nurse, who was so wary of germs and infection from patients she was attending to that she often threw tablets into their mouths from a distance, may be struck off the nursing register and banned from the profession.
Sarita Mittal, 46, lobbed pills into patients' mouths as if she was "playing darts" because they were "dirty", according to a hearing at the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).
Mittal worked at the Poplars Nursing Home in Smethwick, Birmingham.
The council was told during the hearing that some of the patients were left spluttering on their medication and care assistants had to stop them choking.
Residents at the home suffered from a range of conditions, including cancer, Parkinson's disease and motor neurone disease.
The chair of the council's panel hearing the case, Sheila Hewitt, said: "On many occasions, sometimes with vulnerable patients, Ms Mittal administered medication by throwing it with her hand into the mouths of patients, saying that she was doing so because of her fear of germs from the patients".
She added: "Ms Mittal would ask residents to open their mouths, standing at a distance of two-and-a-half to three feet away from them and when they did this, she would throw the medication into their mouths".
She said the panel was satisfied that the witnesses had given reliable and truthful accounts of what they saw.
Mittal now denies the allegations, but the panel noted that she did not do so during the internal disciplinary hearing in 2007.
The panel dismissed her claims after finding that the charges against her were proved and is now considering whether her failings amount to misconduct, after which the ruling will be delivered.
The NMC was also told that Mittal set up a makeshift bed behind reception and sometimes slept for more than half of her ten-hour night shift.
Alex Mills, appearing for the NMC, said Mittal's actions put patient safety at risk and breached the trust of her employers at the home.
He said, "To throw the medication into the patient's mouth and explain she did so because patients were dirty and they had germs, if said in earshot of patients you may think would cause distress.
"The registrant acted in a way which did not justify the trust and confidence the public have in her upholding and enhancing the general reputation of the profession," Mills added.
"She also bedded down for the night when she knew it was forbidden to sleep on shift, leaving patients without a registered nurse to direct care for them", he said.
Sandash Kumar, who also worked at the home, described Mittal's actions of throwing the medication "as if she were playing darts".
Story first published:
May 31, 2012 12:16 IST