Racist care home boss banned for a year after refusing to employ black people

July 18, 2013 | by | 0 Comments

A care home boss who refused to employ black nurses and made frequent racist remarks has been banned from nursing for a year.

Helene Coetzee stunned colleagues by making a string of “deplorable” comments about skin colour and nationality, a hearing was told.

In one instance Mrs Coetzee was heard saying: “I pride myself on not having many foreigners here.”

On another occasion she said: “I don’t want any more black nurses, there are already enough in the home.”

The South African-born nurse was also heard voicing her disgust at elderly residents being helped to use the toilet by black carers.

A Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) disciplinary hearing was told how Coetzee became “distressed and unhappy” when colleagues employed a Jamaican nurse while she was on leave.

When the manager returned to work she was adamant the centre would only employ British staff.

An investigating committee branded her views “deplorable” and she was suspended from working in the profession for a year.

Chairman of the committee Stuart Turnock said: “The panel was of the view that a period of suspension would provide Mrs Coetzee with time to reflect upon her failings and to demonstrate greater insight.

“A suspension order would, in the panel’s view, send a clear signal to Mrs Coetzee, to the profession and to the public that her behaviour was unacceptable.”

He added: “The panel noted that Mrs Coetzee’s comments clearly suggested she might act in a discriminatory manner in relation to recruitment.

“It is not alleged that she acted in a discriminatory manner towards patients or that there was any actual or potential harm to patients as a result of her attitude.”

The South African-born nurse made the comments during her time as manager of Bupa’s £7million flagship dementia care home Warren Lodge, in Ashford, Kent.

Many of Mrs Coetzee’s colleagues felt “shocked” and “taken aback” by her behaviour, the hearing, which took place last Friday, was told.

Giving evidence to the panel, sitting in Aldwych, London, care home administrator Gabriella Perrer said there had been photographs attached to some job applications.

When she took one file to Mrs Coetzee displayed a black applicant on the front.

Mrs Perrer said: “I took the file to her in the evening just before I was due to go home.

“Moments later Helene came out of the office and into the reception area where I was with the paperwork in her hand while some people were around us.

“Helene stated to me: ‘I don’t want any more black nurses, there are already enough in the home.’

“She didn’t even look at the applications if the person in a picture was coloured.”

Receptionist Pauline Parker told the hearing that Mrs Coetzee’s management style left her so stressed that for three months she had a letter of resignation kept in her handbag.

She said: “Warren Lodge often had people walking in during the day looking for work.

“A black lady walked in to ask about a job and I told her we were not actively recruiting at that time.

“I now see Helene behind the lady and she was shaking her head at me.”

The investigating committee told how Mrs Coetzee was under a large amount of pressure as manager of the care home.

It was also noted the misconduct, which happened between April and December 2011, was over a limited period of time in a “long and otherwise unblemished” career.

Speaking after the hearing, Bupa’s director of operations, Richard Jackson, said: “We actively promote diversity and equality in all our homes and Mrs Coetzee’s behaviour was unacceptable.

“We suspended and dismissed her following the incidents in 2011 and referred her to the NMC.”

Mrs Coetzee, who did not attend the hearing, will be allowed to return to nursing after her 12-month suspension ban.

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