Maxine Noone was found to be drunk on the job at Millmerran Centenary Retirement Village. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter
Maxine Noone was found to be drunk on the job at Millmerran Centenary Retirement Village. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter

Aged care boss drunk on job but awarded $15k

THE head of nursing at a Queensland aged care facility was incompetent, drunk on the job and bullied her staff, a court has found.

But Maxine Noone, now formerly of Millmerran Centenary Retirement Village, has won $15,000 in a lawsuit against aged care advocate Heather Mansell Brown after being defamed in a series of Facebook posts.

Brown was sued after incorrectly claiming Noone was sacked from a previous job over alcohol issues and missing drugs, but she succeeded in defending other statements against her which Brisbane District Court found were substantially true.

In October 2017, the outspoken Bundaberg aged care advocate posted several Facebook comments to her 167 followers claiming Millmerran Centenary Retirement Village, in the Darling Downs, had been subject to complaints of "staff bullying, forging signatures, miss use (sic) of medication".

She also claimed in the posts, which could also be seen by any member of the public who viewed the page, there has been a "total lack of discernment and negligence".

She also wrote the village should "be thinking of sacking your incompetent DON (Director of Nursing), president and board members that does not have the interest in or consideration of the elderly and their welfare..."

Maxine Noone was found to be drunk on the job at Millmerran Centenary Retirement Village. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter
Maxine Noone was found to be drunk on the job at Millmerran Centenary Retirement Village. Picture: AAP Image/Claudia Baxter

Millmerran Centenary clinical care manager and director of nursing Maxine Noone in 2018 lodged defamation action against Ms Mansell-Brown in the Queensland District Court.

The court today ordered Ms Mansell-Brown to pay $15,000 in damages to Ms Noone, after finding a number of the posts defamatory and indefensible.

However, damages were not awarded for several allegations that were found to be substantially true.

During the trial, it was revealed Ms Mansell-Brown had made several allegations in the posts including that Ms Noone was affected by alcohol and drugs while on duty, incompetent and dismissed from her previous employment because of issue with alcohol and drugs.

The court found it was substantially true that Ms Noone was unfit and incompetent to hold her role because of "alcohol issues, her treatment of some patients and her dealings with staff, doctors and relatives of patients".

Judge Paul Smith also found Ms Mansell-Brown had honestly held the opinion that Ms Noone was unfit.

However, the court found it was not true Ms Noone was dismissed from her previous employment because of missing drugs and alcohol issues but that she was dismissed from her previous job.

During the hearing, the court heard Ms Mansell-Brown wrote in one post: "Well we all know one person who will not suffer dehydration, the DON drinks on duty at Millmerran".

At another date in October 2017, Ms Noone also alleged further defamatory posts were made, claiming she was "escorted off the premises at her last job" after allegations of drinking and "missing narcotic drugs".

Of the $15,000 in damages ordered by the court, $5000 were aggravated damages.

"On the evidence, there were very mixed views about the plaintiff," Judge Smith said in the judgment.

"She had the support of some employees but not the support of other witnesses who gave evidence.

"I have found that she had some influence over the board and the supporting employees to be in 'her camp'."

Judge Smith found three of eight alleged defamatory imputations were substantially true.

"It is serious to incorrectly suggest that someone had been dismissed for alcohol use or being responsible for missing drugs," he said.

"On the other hand, by reason of the factual findings the damage to her reputation is not like someone with an exemplary character being defamed."

The court will next week consider whether Ms Mansell-Brown will also be required to pay the woman's costs.

The court today heard lawyers for Ms Noone are expected to argue costs should be awarded because Ms Mansell-Brown prolonged the trial and "solicited" attention from the media in the lead-up to the civil hearing.