'Desperate' nurse stole credit card from dead patient

A nurse who stole credit cards from his patients, including one who was in surgery and another who had died, says he was acting out of desperation.

Marvel Clavecilla told a medical tribunal today he stole from patients in order to provide for his own family.

"We had moved to New Zealand from the Philippines for a better life, I felt ashamed that I couldn't afford our new life alone."

Clavecilla first stole a credit card from a patient in March 2020. He made 19 transactions over nine days, he then threw the card into the bin.

However, he says he stopped using the card because he felt guilty.

"I put the card in the rubbish bin so I didn't use it anymore."

A month later he stole another credit card, this time taking it from the patient while she was in surgery.

Over a period of six days, he used another patient's credit card 13 times at supermarkets, petrol stations, fast food shops and at The Warehouse.

Clavecilla was found guilty of 32 counts of dishonesty and was sentenced to six months of community detention and 150 hours of community work after appearing in the Blenheim District Court in 2020.

Because of the conviction, he is now facing the possibility of being deported.

Today, he was also suspended from practising for nine months following a Health Practitioner Disciplinary Tribunal hearing.

Counsel Matthew McClelland, representing the professional conduct committee, said that an act like Clavecilla's brings discredit to the nursing profession.

"The public must be able to have trust and confidence in health professionals," he said.

Tribunal member Chris Taua asked Clavecilla why he decided to take the second credit card after throwing out the first one.

He responded, saying that the opportunity was there and without thinking, he took the second card.

McClelland referred to the judgment made by Judge Richard Russell during the criminal hearing in 2020.

"The judge found that your offending was premeditated, but you're telling us that it was not premeditated and that you acted in extreme desperation?"

"How can we know that when you face difficult financial situations again you won't result back in theft?" McClelland said.

"I have learnt my lesson and would never do anything like that again," he said.

"My financial situation was worsening, the debts continued to pile up and I could only just pay them on time."

The Tribunal declined an application by the practitioner for permanent name suppression.

Clavecilla must disclose the Tribunal's decision and undertake supervision for 18 months if he returns to nursing after his suspension ends.

  - By Ellen Thompson, Open Justice Multimedia Journalist, Auckland

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