Thursday, February 04, 2010

Whistleblower who was harassed when he criticised NHS cost-cutting wins damages

"Shut up!" -- the usual Leftist reply to criticism

A consultant urologist who was suspended after speaking out against cost-cutting at an NHS hospital has won damages at an employment tribunal in a landmark case. Ramon Niekrash, 50, was removed from duty at the hospital and called a "troublemaker" after he questioned the effects of cost-cutting on patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich, South London.

A tribunal ruled that he was entitled to damages because he has been acting as a whistle-blower in the public interest when he wrote letters to hospital management raising his concerns about the health of patients. The verdict also placed blame on government targets for raising tensions between management and clinical staff at the NHS hospital.

Mr Niekrash claimed he was the victim of bullying and harassment after he criticised cutbacks at the hospital, which he said included a shortage of senior medical staff and the closure of the specialist urology ward.

At one point a senior doctor at the hospital allegedly said she wished that Mr Niekrash, who was trained in Australia, was "in chains on a plane in Heathrow back to Australia."

Mr Niekrash's lawyers said the case revealed the way in which senior NHS whistle-blowers are punished for speaking out. One case he raised was of a prostate cancer patient who was allegedly not told that he had the disease, nor given treatment for six months after he was diagnosed.

In a letter, he also accused hospital management of behaving like a "plantation owner" towards doctors, The Independent reported.

A 50-page ruling from the tribunal found that Mr Niekrash's suspension from the hospital breached laws put in place to protect whistle-blowers. Judge Burton, sitting at the tribunal, said: "We have no doubt that the exclusion of a consultant, being a rare occurrence, must have an adverse impact on the claimant's reputation," adding that Mr Niekrash had been "hurt" and that his health had suffered.

The judge said tensions had arisen between the claimant's desire to provide health care and "the requirement of management to reduce or limit costs and also comply with varying targets laid down by the Department of Health from time to time."

A hospital spokesman said: "We are considering this judgment very carefully ... There are nearly always lessons to be learned from cases like this, and as soon as we have carefully considered the judgment, we will respond in full."


Australia: Couple sues government hospital over stillborn baby

PARENTS of a baby delivered stillborn at Redcliffe Hospital claim medical staff repeatedly ignored warning signs their unborn baby was distressed. Kym Marie Body and Robert Wayne Body, of Mango Hill in Brisbane's north, are suing the State Government which runs Redcliffe Hospital for nearly $300,000 in negligence and damages. Documents filed to the Supreme Court allege a midwife ignored and turned down the volume of an echocardiogram alarm that sounded for more than three hours while Mrs Body was in labour.

The documents also claim Mrs Body was diagnosed and treated for deep vein thrombosis and thrombophilia (blood clotting) at Redcliffe Hospital after the birth of her first child in 2004. She alleges the hospital ought to have known her medical history and the risks associated and failed to recognise a natural birth "could not be performed safely".

The documents show Mrs Body was admitted to hospital at 8am on February 26, 2007, and was monitored at half-hour intervals between 9.30am and 3pm. Her waters were broken by a doctor about 4pm and at 4.30pm an epidural was administered. It is alleged that at 5.10pm an echocardiogram alarm attached to Mrs Body began making loud noises, but the volume was turned down by a midwife. The documents claim four other times when the alarm sounded, indicating the baby's distress, it was turned down by the same midwife. The echocardiogram alarm continued to sound until 8.20pm but medical staff did not respond to it.

It wasn't until 9.30pm, when Mr Body requested for Mrs Body to have an internal exam that one was performed, court documents claim. By 10.40pm, Mrs Body was told the baby's heart rate was "low" and "we need to get her out now". Paige Hannah Body was delivered by vacuum extraction about 11pm. She was not breathing and could not be revived.

Mr and Mrs Body, who say they suffer anxiety and depression, are suing Redcliffe Hospital for $278,200. The State Government is yet to file a defence.


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