Laois-based doctor in High Court challenge over suspension

Court Reporter

Reporter:

Court Reporter

Overcrowding at Portlaoise Hospital

Doctor based at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

A Laois based consultant Child and Adolescent psychiatrist who challenged his suspension from his job has lost his High Court action aimed at allowing him to return to work.

Ms Justice Mirian O'Regan in dismissing judicial review proceedings brought by Dr Peadar O'Grady said it was not appropriate for the courts to interfere with the consultant's suspension at this time.  

Following complaints against him, Dr O'Grady was the subject of an investigation, undertaking by Acrux Consulting Limited on behalf of his employer the HSE, who suspended him on full pay in May 2015.

Following its probe, Acrux produced a preliminary report that contains allegations against him. That report will be considered at a HSE disciplinary hearing, which has the power to impose sanctions against the Portlaoise-based Dr O'Grady.

Dr O'Grady claims the investigation was flawed and breached his rights to fair procedures.

He rejects any allegations of serious professional misconduct over referral practices concerning patients to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service for Laois/Offaly, where he has been employed since 2010.

He claimed the three-person team that conducted the investigation was biased against him and that he was fully exonerated in an earlier investigation which dealt with broadly the same matters.

No meaningful steps to advance the second investigation was taken until after he was exonerated by the first investigation.

He also claimed there were interpersonal difficulties between him and his superior who has made the complaints against him.

In his proceedings against the HSE Dr O'Grady sought various orders and declarations including orders quashing the preliminary report of the investigation, that the investigation be halted and that his suspension from work be lifted.

The HSE opposed the application on grounds including that the challenge was premature, that there was a delay by Do O'Grady in bringing proceedings and that issues he has complained of can be raised later on in the disciplinary process.

The HSE rejected Dr O'Grady's claim that the three-person panel conducting the investigation was biased, and argued that the suspension was justified as there were ongoing concerns in respect to patient safety.

In her judgement, Ms Justice O'Regan said she was not satisfied the case was one where the process had gone irredeemably wrong that would allow the courts to interfere with what is an ongoing investigation.

The Judge said that Dr O'Grady had not demonstrated a strong case for the lifting of his suspension pending the conclusion of the disciplinary hearing.

The judge added that Dr O'Grady, who is attached to the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise, will have the opportunity to respond to allegations of misconduct against him and concerns about the investigation process at the disciplinary hearing. 

The judge said that the was also of the view that the action had not been taken within the legal time limits.

In all the circumstance the court was satisfied to dismiss the case.

The court heard that the complaints against Dr OGrady arose from an ADHD initiative was undertaken by the service which identified a number of cases where clinical reassessments were undertaken.

Dr O'Grady's diagnoses and assessments of those cases were severely criticised, resulting in the investigation process being commenced.

Dr O'Grady claimed he was being scapegoated in respect of the under-resourcing of the services.

Due to the severe restrictions, he claimed he prioritised the most severely ill or at-risk patients and only accepted referrals in cases which were severe, complex and persistent.