Nurse’s ‘severe fall from grace’ with 185 charges

A highly regarded Brisbane nursing manager repeatedly stole morphine from aged care homes and "covered her tracks" as she became ensnared in a severe opioid addiction.

Tanya Louise Barr, 51, a former palliative care nurse at Metro South, today pleaded guilty to 185 charges involving stealing by clerks and servants, falsifying records and possessing dangerous drugs.

The Brisbane Magistrates Court heard Barr had been a three decade veteran of nursing when she began stealing morphine and hydromorphone in 2018.

Police prosecutor Andrea Donoghue said the offending happened over 22 months at 21 aged care facilities across Brisbane.

Staff became suspicious in April and a check of the drug register showed greater volumes of opioids going to the nursing homes than would be expected.

On being confronted Barr immediately came clean and apologised.

"The offending was protracted, it was sophisticated and reckless," Ms Donoghue said.

"She potentially put other employees' jobs at risk by putting them in a position of co-signing her fraudulent offending with the drug register and also the consequence of patients records now having incorrect medical details as it now reflects that they were prescribed medication that they were never prescribed."

Barrister Tim Ryan said his client reported herself to health authorities and agreed not to practice as a registered nurse.

She was suspended from Metro South and will "no doubt" be fired.

"She's ashamed of herself and embarrassed about having to face this court," Mr Ryan said.

"There has been for her a severe fall from grace."

Mr Ryan said Barr developed a codeine dependence after suffering migraines for years and having a medical procedure.

She avoided seeing a GP about it because mandatory reporting provisions meant her work would be alerted.

In 2018 she was promoted to managing her unit, which was understaffed, leading to an increase in stress.

"She in May 2018 succumbed to the temptation of accessing a very small amount of morphine to assist her in dealing with stress on that particular occasion, it then developed," he said.

Barr has since been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder.

Magistrate Rosemary Gilbert said Barr's character references indicated her nursing skills were "very highly regarded".

"The offending is a serious breach of trust … that Queensland Health placed in you," she said.

"Your knowledge in the area allowed you to effectively cover your tracks."

Ms Gilbert said the loss of her career "must indeed be a considerable loss to you".

She placed Barr on a two year probation order and did not record a conviction.

Originally published as Nurse's 'severe fall from grace' with 185 charges