Dismissed doctor fails in bid to move case

By Imran Ali

A former Whangarei Hospital junior doctor has failed in a bid to move her personal grievance case alleging unjustified dismissal from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to the Employment Court.

Lynda Marie Emmerson was fired from her job last year by the Northland District Health Board (NDHB) for writing prescriptions for a controlled drug to someone she was in a relationship with and who was not a patient.

Ms Emmerson said in her submission to the ERA she was not aware that was inappropriate.

A review conducted by the Medical Council NZ cleared her to practice after five months, but by then she had no job.

She went to the ERA in September last year alleging she was unjustifiably dismissed and disadvantaged by actions of the NDHB. A hearing was held in late January but had to be adjourned to allow NDHB to seek a new lawyer.

The matter had been set down for a five-day hearing from July 11 and Ms Emmerson was directed to file evidence, including about her ability to be reinstated, her personal health and professional certification to resume practice.

In her application to move the case to the Employment Court, Ms Emmerson argued the matter was of such urgency that it was in the public interest that it be heard by the court.

Cases usually only go to the higher court after being heard by the ERA.

ERA member Tania Tetitaha said an important question of law might arise if resolution could affect large numbers of employers or employees or both, and if the consequences were of major significance to employment law.

Ms Tetitaha said issues of public welfare in the prescribing practices at Whangarei Hospital were more appropriately dealt with by the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Medical Council of New Zealand.

Since Ms Emmerson had complained to the Ministry of Health, she said it was more appropriate for that body to address any such issues.

Ms Tetitaha said the former doctor's case may be given an oral determination and was likely to be resolved more quickly in the ERA then by being moved to the Employment Court.

She said Ms Emmerson was yet to file information directed at identifying the dates and events that gave rise to the unjustified disadvantages.

Ms Tetitaha declined to exercise her discretion to move the matter for a number of reasons. Parliament had intended the ERA deal with a number of questions of disputed fact, the matter was part heard and was set to resume in July, and an oral determination might be given, she said.

- Northern Advocate

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