Ridge Meadows Hospital nurse guilty of sex assault

Abihudi Imbai convicted on two counts for kissing sedated patients at a hospital in Maple Ridge

Fraser Health Authority says incident of sexual assault by staff on patients are rare.

Fraser Health Authority says incident of sexual assault by staff on patients are rare.

A former registered nurse at Ridge Meadows Hospital who kissed two patients last year while they were sedated has been found guilty of sexual assault.

Abihudi Imbai, 35, was convicted on two counts of sexual assault Wednesday following a three-day trial in Port Coquitlam Provincial Court. He returns to court in January for a pre-sentencing report.

One of the victims said it’s been an ordeal from the time of the 11 June 2012 incident to making a complaint and seeing it through court.

“It’s an unbelievable situation. You get all these people that you trust in as a kid. There are just certain things that you expect that you’re going to be safe with.”

The woman said she had been given morphine for pain relief during the evening but was conscious when Imbai inappropriately touched her and kissed her.

After it happened, she didn’t know what to think or why the man would do it.

“You just can’t believe it happened. This is the night time. This is your nurse. What do you do? You’re at the mercy of him.”

After the incident, she told her husband who reported it to the hospital the next day.

She didn’t know anything about the second victim until the trial proceedings started.

The process has been a trying one. She’s continued to get counselling but remains uneasy about going to the hospital or visiting long-term care facilities where both her parents live.

Despite the ordeal, she’s happy with Fraser Health and Ridge Meadows Hospital’s response and pleased how Ridge Meadows RCMP handled the case.

“I can tell you that the hospital took immediate steps to disengage his services. I do believe that the proper measures were taken to ensure his behaviour couldn’t continue in the future.”

Fraser Health spokesman Tasleem Juma said an investigation started within two days after the complaint, followed by notification to Ridge Meadows RCMP.

Once the complaint was made, the employee was suspended while the investigation proceeded, said Fraser Health spokesperson Tasleem Juma. He was fired within two weeks of the investigation.

“We don’t believe that the well-being and safety of our patients was put at risk by this individual. We took steps immediately to remove this person from his duties and from providing care.”

She said Fraser Health didn’t notify the public because a police investigation was underway and the man was no longer employed.

“If public health and well-being is at risk because of the actions of an individual, then absolutely we would make attempts to contact individuals and make a public announcement about it.

“In this case, the general safety and well-being of the public was not at risk so there’s not really a need to go and make a public announcement about it.”

She pointed out such incidents are rare.

“We do our due diligence to ensure this type of behaviour is not tolerated.”

The discipline process involves hearing a complaint, suspending the employee if the allegations are serious, then firing if there is strong evidence.

“We don’t take termination lightly. We have to make sure we have a solid case to terminate an individual.

“From the moment we were notified of the allegation, steps were immediately taken to ensure that this individual was not providing care to anybody else. This is extremely rare. This is something that does not happen. This is one individual who is not the norm … for our organization.”

While the victim says the RCMP did a good job investigating, she wonders why Ridge Meadows Mounties didn’t notify the public. The same thing may have happened to other women.

“But I was told that the police liaison person who usually deals with the press, was on holidays at the time, and that’s why the police didn’t do anything in the paper.

“I was upset at the time because I felt if it was in the paper right away then more people would have come forward before the trial.”

Ridge Meadows RCMP did not return calls for comment.

She doesn’t blame Fraser Health for not making an announcement because the health authority had no prior knowledge of this happening with anybody else.

According to the College of Registered Nurses of B.C., Imbai voluntarily gave up his practising registration on 2 Aug. 2012, “as a result of professional boundary concerns.

“The inquiry committee is satisfied that the undertakings will protect the public,”  the college in a disciplinary ruling on its website.

“I haven’t felt safe in my own community,” said the woman.

While it’s been more than a year, she wants anybody else who may have been victimized to, “just come forward.

“There are appropriate people to help them along the way.”