899 people received care from fake nurse at B.C. Women’s Hospital, health authority says – Canada

Imposter Brigitte Cleroux was involved in the treatment of 899 patients during her year posing as a perioperative nurse at B.C. Women’s Hospital, newly filed court documents reveal.

Before now, the public has remained in the dark about exactly how many people were affected by the 51-year-old’s alleged fraud at the Vancouver facility in 2020 and 2021.

The number is included in the Provincial Health Services Authority’s (PHSA) Jan. 27 response to an application to certify a proposed class-action lawsuit accusing the hospital operator of negligence and vicarious liability for battery and breach of privacy committed by Cleroux.

Documents filed the same day also show that because of Cleroux’s deception, the health authority is now confirming both the name and licence of every nurse it hires. Cleroux allegedly used an assumed identity and was not required to give a valid registration number when she started work.

The PHSA response says a chart review conducted after the hospital learned Cleroux isn’t a real nurse revealed she directly cared for 899 people and was indirectly involved in the treatment of another 258 by reviewing their files.

All 1,157 of those patients received a letter in late 2021 informing them about what had happened, the document says.

The response asks for a B.C. Supreme Court judge to deny an application to certify the lawsuit as a class action, arguing the experiences of the hundreds of patients affected are too different to be handled through a single trial.

“PHSA has not in any way tried and is not trying now to evade or avoid responsibility,” the response reads.

“The issue here is simply to decide the appropriate way to deal with claims that arise from Cleroux’s fraud.”

New ‘standardized process’ to confirm identities

Cleroux has never had a valid licence or completed nursing school, but over the last two decades, she has been accused or convicted of pretending to be a nurse in Colorado, Ontario, Alberta and B.C. She’s also posed as a teacher in Alberta and Quebec.

In all, Cleroux has amassed at least 67 criminal convictions as an adult.

In Vancouver, she is currently facing 17 criminal charges, including allegations of assaulting 10 patients, related to her time at B.C. Women’s between June 2020 and June 2021.

Cleroux currently sits in prison, serving a seven-year sentence for posing as a nurse at two Ottawa clinics in the summer of 2021.

According to parole documents, Cleroux has used more than 20 aliases to commit fraud over the last three decades.

The health authority has said that Cleroux used the name of a real nurse, Melanie Smith, when she applied to work at B.C. Women’s, but told administrators she didn’t have a registration number yet because she had recently transferred from Ontario.

“The lack of a BCCNM (B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives) registration number was not a bar to an individual commencing employment as a registered nurse with British Columbia health authorities,” PHSA said in its June 2022 response to the proposed class action.

Brigitte Cleroux worked as a perioperative nurse at B.C. Women’s Hospital from June 2020 to June 2021. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Miranda Massie, the representative plaintiff in the lawsuit, has alleged in court documents that PHSA “accepted a photocopy of a personal cheque from Cleroux where she had whited out her name at the top of the cheque and handwritten the name Melanie Smith, as confirmation of Cleroux’s identity as Melanie Smith.”

The new PHSA filings do not appear to address that allegation, but they do include details about how the health authority plans to weed out future imposters.

An affidavit from the hospital’s chief operating officer, Cheryl Davies, says PHSA now has “a standardized process to ensure all registered nurses hold a valid licence upon being hired and during the duration of their employment.”

Davies writes that “every check now involves confirming both name and licence number with the BCCNM to verify credentials are current, and licences are up to date.”

Names and registration numbers are also checked during annual audits, the affidavit says.

In previously filed court documents, the PHSA has denied that it should have known Cleroux wasn’t a qualified nurse or that her deception should have been discovered with due diligence. It says the health authority was also a victim of fraud and did not authorize any of Cleroux’s alleged crimes and misconduct.

Cleroux’s next court date for her criminal charges in Vancouver is scheduled for Feb. 22.

The Current23:47The Professional: the bizarre story of serial imposter Brigitte Cleroux

Brigitte Cleroux worked as a nurse, a teacher, and more — but she was a serial imposter, without qualifications. The CBC’s Bethany Lindsay brings us her documentary The Professional, in which the people who came face to face with Cleroux share their stories and confusion about how this could ever have happened.

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