QEH within rights: Gollop
THE MANAGEMENT?of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has the right to suspend any employee for any reason, says attorney Hal Gollop.
Gollop was arguing the point last Wednesday during his submission to the No. 10 Supreme Court in the case where consultant cardiologist Dr Richard Ishmael is challenging the QEH’s board decision to suspend him on December 10, 2010.
Ishmael, who is represented by attorneys Leslie Haynes and Laura Duncan, is seeking $600 000 in damages; a declaration that the suspension is invalid, null and void; an injunction to restrain the QEH from continuing and/or enforcing the suspension; and an injunction restraining the hospital from commencing and carrying out an enquiry alluded to in his suspension letter.
The matter has arisen out of a letter which the doctor wrote to the director of medical services on November 17, 2010, outlining an event that occurred at the hospital involving heart specialist Dr Alfred Sparman and a patient, who was a visitor to the island, and under Ishmael’s care.
Ishmael was later suspended on December 10, 2010, pending an investigation, after the CEO informed him of two acts deemed an offence under the terms and conditions of service for employees of the QEH, namely the referencing of the Minister of Health, the director of medical services and Dr Sparman in his letter and the use of the hospital’s letterhead to convey information to people “outside the governance framework of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital”, without lawful permission or authority.
In his submission before Justice Jacqueline Cornelius, Gollop argued that the matter before the court was founded in breach of contract and was not a matter which drew its relevance on public law, and as such did not rely on issues of exercise of discretion to determine the conduct of the defendant.
Gollop submitted that the suspension would not affect the doctor’s future prospects in Barbados or overseas. He added that because Ishmael’s suspension was overturned and he returned to work on January 14, the suspension should not form part of the judge’s consideration.
In relation to the $600 000 in damages being claimed, Gollop charged that there was no objective test or evidence before the court to show how Ishmael had been affected.
In his submission, Haynes told the court that he had “tremendous difficulty” with Gollop’s argument that an employer could suspend an employee for any reason, once there was full pay.
He charged that the defence had not put that issue to the court in its pleadings, adding that there were expressed terms in the contract, and only in the circumstance allowed for by those terms, could there be a suspension.
He also charged that the CEO of the hospital had not informed his client within the seven days allowed of an offence.
He also submitted that the clause under which the CEO purported to exercise the power of suspension did not give him the power to suspend.
Pointing out that his client’s letter was “openly critical”?of the Minister of Health, the director of medical services and Dr Sparman, Haynes accused the hospital’s CEO of acting in bad faith by suspending Ishmael.
The court will give its decision at a later date.