In July 2020, less than two weeks into her year of posing as a gynecological nurse at B.C. Women's Hospital, Brigitte Cleroux was written up for "inappropriate" and disrespectful conduct toward a colleague, according to a new legal filing.
Within four months on the job at the Vancouver hospital, Cleroux had allegedly been placed on administrative leave and received a written warning related to her unprofessional and judgmental behaviour with a patient.
By December 2020, Cleroux was allegedly suspended from work for a day in response to another list of complaints, including loudly saying she wanted to "punch or hit" a colleague in the face, using force to straighten a patient's arm while applying a blood pressure cuff, and being "physically and verbally inappropriate" with another patient while inserting an intravenous line.
Despite all this — and despite the fact she had no actual nursing credentials — Cleroux worked at the hospital for another six months after the suspension.
These revelations come courtesy of a response filed Friday by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) to a proposed class action lawsuit launched on behalf of patients who claim PHSA is liable for the harm they suffered under Cleroux's care.
The PHSA response denies liability for Cleroux's actions, but reveals several new allegations of inappropriate behaviour during her time in the Vancouver hospital's Post Anesthetic Care Unit between June 22, 2020, and June 23, 2021.
According to the response, Cleroux's deception was only discovered in June 2021 after more complaints about her unprofessional and aggressive behaviour toward patients and colleagues.
Fake nurse sentenced to prison time in Ontario
Cleroux, 50, has a long criminal history across the country, including 67 convictions as an adult, and has pretended to be a nurse or school teacher in at least four provinces and two U.S. states.
She is currently awaiting trial in Vancouver for fraud and personation in relation to her activities at B.C. Women's Hospital, and prosecutors have said an investigation is underway into further allegations of assault.
Cleroux is currently behind bars after receiving a seven-year prison sentence for crimes including personation, assault with a weapon and assault related to her time posing as a nurse at a fertility clinic and a dental clinic in Ottawa.
The proposed class action lawsuit was filed in December by representative plaintiff Miranda Massie on behalf of all patients who received treatment from Cleroux at B.C. Women's Hospital. The notice of claim alleges negligence by PHSA for hiring Cleroux, and holds the health authority liable for battery.
In its response, PHSA denies that it should have known Cleroux wasn't a qualified nurse, or that her deception should have been discovered with due diligence.
"At all material times PHSA took all reasonable steps to properly review Cleroux's suitability and credentials as a registered nurse and to monitor, supervise and oversee Cleroux," the response says.
Cleroux 'took steps to appear sufficiently competent'
It goes on to say that when Cleroux was hired, provincial health authorities were struggling to keep up with the demand for nursing staff caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She applied for a job using the name Melanie Smith, which matched the identity of a nurse registered in B.C. at the time, according to the response. No such name is currently listed in the public online registry for the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives.
In a phone interview for the B.C. Women's Hospital job, Cleroux "appeared professional, cordial and enthusiastic," according to the response.
However, the response also notes that Cleroux could not provide a registration number for the B.C. nursing college, explaining she didn't have one yet because she had recently moved from Ontario.
Nonetheless, she was hired, and according to PHSA she "actively took steps to appear sufficiently competent in the day-to-day tasks required of a registered nurse in the PACU." The response says Cleroux went as far as to make recommendations for improving nursing care in the unit.
Her interpersonal behaviour was another matter, however.
The final straw, according to the PHSA response, was an incident on June 4, 2021, when a patient overheard Cleroux talking about another patient in a "loud and cavalier manner" about another patient.
When a co-worker told Cleroux the patient might file a complaint, Cleroux became "aggressive and dismissive," and continued to act that way in two meetings with staff, the response says.
She was placed on administrative leave once again and the PHSA says it launched an investigation, finally confirming that Cleroux was neither Melanie Smith, nor a licensed nurse.
None of the allegations in the proposed class action or the response have been proven in court.
Cleroux is scheduled to make her next appearance in provincial court in Vancouver on June 23.