A clinical nurse manager with addiction issues who took tablets from her place of work and forged a doctor's signature to get prescribed medicine has lost a challenge to her dismissal from her job.

The manager, who cannot be identified due to ongoing investigations into alleged fraud and misuse of patient data, argued that her dismissal was unfair because she admitted to the wrong-doing, had begun addiction counselling and offered to submit to regular drug tests.

She also suggested that she could work where she would not have access to medication.

She took a case to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) under the Unfair Dismissal Act, saying that her employer had failed to take into account her offers to remedy the situation.

The commission found that her actions constituted gross misconduct and that her dismissal was a reasonable response from her employer.

The complainant was a full-time employee and earned €1,105 per week. She was fired from her post in the summer of 2021.

The commission heard last year that the employer had begun an investigation in January 2021 after irregularities concerning prescription medication came to light.

The complainant was interviewed and admitted to taking the medication in question.

She also admitted that on two dates in January 2021 she took blank prescription forms which she completed using a forged doctor's signature and a patient's personal data.

She accepted that these were not isolated incidents but could not recall the exact dates and times of previous transgressions.

At a hearing last year, the Director of Clinical Services at the clinic in question said that the manager's conduct meant that the bond of trust between them was "irrevocably broken".

She said that the manager had been charged with the care of "extremely vulnerable persons" and that she had "an enormous duty of care in respect of their wellbeing".

She said she must have an "absolute level of trust" in clinical employees and the former manager's actions were such that dismissal was the only appropriate outcome, even having regard to the mitigating factors put forward.

In submissions to the commission, the hospital said that the manager's actions were a breach of the clinic's internal policy on the storage and handling of medicines, the Misuse of Drugs Act, the hospital's code of conduct, the code of professional conduct for registered nurses and the hospital's internal disciplinary policy.

The hospital said it places "a significant amount of trust" in their employees to act in a responsible manner and one of the primary responsibilities is the "correct and lawful maintenance and distribution of controlled medications".

Dismissal was "clearly within the band of reasonable responses," the hospital said.

The complainant said that before the hospital heard an appeal against her dismissal, she had placed the hospital on notice of her addiction issues.

She also accepted responsibility for her actions, had begun attending a counsellor and completed a treatment programme for alcohol dependence.

She remained enrolled in a two-year programme and continued to attend her GP for ongoing care.

She suggested that she could be restricted to duties where she would not be in contact with prescribed drugs and said she would provide ongoing evidence of her attendance at an alcohol dependency treatment centre and at AA meetings.

She said she would also submit to random drug and alcohol testing.

The complainant said there was no evidence the hospital considered these factors before rejecting her appeal and upholding her dismissal.

Brian Dolan, the adjudicating officer at the WRC, said it is evident that the complainant's actions constitute gross misconduct.

He also accepted that when confronted, she "did everything in her power to avoid the outcome of dismissal" by admitting to the wrongdoing, apologising for the damage caused and seeking to rectify the root cause.

Mr Dolan added: "Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is clear that none of these admissions or proposed conditions serve to reduce the gravity of the Complainant's misconduct. In this regard the Respondent, as a provider of health services, is burdened with a substantial duty of care to its patients and the wider public. A fundamental aspect of this duty of care is the control of prescribed medicines and patient data.

"By her own admission the complainant had misused the trust placed in her and the hospital is "entitled, if not obliged" to view any breach of this trust in "the most serious terms", he said.

He concluded that the former manager's conduct coupled with the nature of her role and her duty of care meant that despite the mitigating factors presented, her dismissal was "within the bounds of reasonable responses available" to the hospital.

He found that the dismissal was not unfair under the Unfair Dismissals Act.