The Employment Court has awarded $3600 rather than the $50,000 sum sought by a Northland doctor sacked for prescribing controlled drugs to her partner.

Dr Lynda Marie Emmerson was working at Whangārei Hospital's Tumanako mental health unit as a psychiatric registrar when she prescribed controlled drugs - including morphine, diazepam, dihydrocodeine tartrate, amoxicillin and tramadol - to her partner, who was not a patient in the unit.

She also wrote prescriptions for her partner's mother and a work colleague.

Her employer, the Northland District Health Board, complained to the Medical Council of New Zealand and the Health Practitioners' Disciplinary Tribunal subsequently cancelled her registration.


She lost an appeal in the High Court against the decision of the Medical Council's professional conduct committee (PCC) that recommended her registration be cancelled.

After Emmerson lost her dismissal grievance claim in the Employment Relations Authority, she challenged the authority's decision in the Employment Court.

She claimed she was badly mistreated by the Northland DHB and wrongfully dismissed for which she should receive substantial remedies of $50,000.

Northland DHB vigorously denied any wrongdoing and submitted only modest awards would be justified.

Emmerson worked at Tumanako Inpatient Unit for much of her three years at the Northland DHB before she was sacked.

Employment Court judge Bruce Corkill ruled an appropriate amount of remedy was $3600 given that Emmerson's misprescription of drugs on two separate occasions and her use of drugs herself.

She admitted being a recreational user of methamphetamine and cannabis and tested positive for the latter in 2015.

Judge Corkill said a medical practitioner like Emmerson being in possession of and using such drugs inevitably brought disrepute not only to herself but to the Northland DHB as well.


"This is especially so for any conviction relating to methamphetamine, a pernicious drug, the serious effects of which are seen daily in the criminal courts," he said in his judgment.

"There is also a risk for a doctor using such drugs of physical impairment, and impaired judgment when at work, with the potential to cause harm to vulnerable patients, many of whom have their own complex addiction issues."

The judge said her drug use was "egregious misconduct" which was highly relevant for employment purposes as was her misprescribing of drugs to her partner and misappropriation of a prescription.