Former CEO loses case against hospice

The former chief executive officer of Marymount Hospice in Cork who was dismissed from his post in February after seven months for "significant interpersonal difficulties" between him and other staff members failed in his application for a court injunction against the hospice yesterday.

Dan Philpott was appointed as CEO of Marymount University Hospital and Hospice Ltd in May 2014 and dismissed in February of this year and the reason given for the termination of his contract was “significant interpersonal difficulties between the applicant (Mr Philpott) and other members of staff, in particular the executive team”.

Judge James O’Donohoe said in his judgment at Cork Circuit Court yesterday on Mr Philpott’s application for injunctive relief against Marymount that it was based on the applicant’s claim that he had made allegations of wrongdoing against the employer.

The judge said that in legal terms an employee was outside the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Act if his contract was terminated before 12 months had passed but he said that if the allegations of wrongdoing made by the employee against the employer, referred to as “protected disclosures”, were accepted by the court then the employee could get the protection of the Act.

Judge O’Donohoe ruled against Mr Philpott on these key allegations.

“This court has only to satisfy itself that the beliefs and disclosures were reasonable and although the court accepts without reservation the sincerity of the plaintiff, objectively on the facts, in the court’s view, he has not satisfied that test. Accordingly, the court refuses interim relief.”

Firstly, Mr Philpott alleged that charity funding was being used for needs other than palliative care and was being used to fund administration, portion of salaries, expenses of board members and other staff and that this was an improper use of funds given in good faith.

“The court rejects this assertion out of hand. It is patently clear that the Marymount Hospice is a registered charity for a considerable length of time and any further money spent from donors is for the good of the community and is fully compliant. Furthermore, there have been no complaints made to any authority,” Judge O’Donohoe said.

He also said that the assertion of a lack of transparency on fundraising and spending was not borne out by the evidence from Marymount witnesses.

Secondly, the former CEO complained of a possible Legionnaires’ contamination of water and the evacuation of patients from a ward in 2014.

This was challenged by Marymount witnesses as alarmist and completely overstated for what they described as a water leak. The judge accepted the hospice evidence on this issue.

Judge O’Donohoe found against the applicant’s criticism of the building noting that the building passed two Hiqa registrations and was, according to the judge, “a state-of-the-art facility in a wonderful peaceful setting”.

The third issue raised by Mr Philpott was alleged mismanagement of financial resources at the hospice.

Judge O’Donohoe noted in his judgment: “He (Mr Philpott) cautions against an over-reliance on charity funding as a working capital source and labels the executive committee as disengaged and that the hospice financial control procedures are ad hoc and an inadequate budget planning approach. Again there was no financial information tendered to support these contentions.”

The judge acceded to the application by Lucy Walsh BL representing Marymount for an award of legal costs in the three-day action in their favour. He refused an application by David Kent BL for Mr Philpott to put a stay on the order for costs.

* Mr Philpott is appealing the court decision and is also seeking a judicial review.

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