Surgeon entitled to injunction, High Court rules

The High Court has ruled a consultant surgeon is entitled to an injunction preventing a private clinic from withdrawing his admission and operating privileges, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

Ms Justice Deidre Murphy found Professor William P Joyce, a consultant colorectal and vascular surgeon was entitled to orders continuing an injunction he obtained restraining Galway Clinic, Doughiska Ltd from withdrawing his admission and operating privileges at the facility.

Earlier this year Prof. Joyce obtained a temporary injunction against it, after the private hospital informed him in February his practising privileges were to be terminated from the end of May 2017.

Professor William Joyce, pictured leaving the Four Courts during the lunchbreak in a High Court action.Pic: Paddy Cummins/PCPhoto.ie

The clinic , which sought to have the injunction discharged, said it withdrew the privileges over alleged patient safety concerns following an incident on July 26th 2016.

A review was conducted by an External Review Committee which found the professor had intended to administer an anesthetic while he was treating patients attending at the clinic.

Only anaesthetists are permitted to administer the drug. Prof Joyce strongly denied the accusation, or that he represented a risk to patient safety.

After the finding was made against the Professor, who has been practising at the clinic since 2004, the clinic decided to withdraw his privileges.

The injunction is to remain in place until the dispute between him and the Clinic has been determined by the High Court.

Giving judgment the Judge said she was satisfied that Prof Joyce had raised a fair issue to be tried on the grounds that fair procedures had not been carried out by the clinic after a complaint was made following the incident on July 26th.

While it was appropriate that an external investigation into the allegation be conducted the Judge said the manner in which that process was conducted "left much to be desired."

The Judge said the investigation was carried out by skilled physicians, but they were "not investigators." The deficiencies in the investigation the judge continued were manifest.

One prominent witness to the event on July 26th had been accredited by the investigators by saying something the witness later denied saying, the Judge said.

In addition Prof Joyce was interviewed by the external investigators before other witnesses were. This denied the Prof Joyce the chance to rebut the allegations against him.

The judge also noted that prior to the incident of July 26th there had been difficulties between Prof Joyce and management over issues concerning alleged misdiagnosis at the clinic's pathology department.

The Judge also said that during the initial internal investigation process, before the external committee was formed, there had been an element of prejudging the complaint against Prof Joyce.

The judge said she was sceptical of allegations concerning issues of patient safety that had been raised by the clinic during the course of proceedings.

Any such matter should be reported to the medical council, the Judge said adding that Prof Joyce had been at the clinic for 13 years and had carried out ten of thousands of procedures without incident. He also had the support of some 32 colleagues, the Judge added.

The Judge also found damages would not be an adequate remedy given the very serious reputational damage Prof Joyce would have suffered by the loss of privileges, the Judge said.

The balance of convenience also favoured the granting of the injunction, the Judge added. There may be difficultiess between some staff at the clinic and Prof Joyce the judge said, but there seemed to be plenty who were happy to work with him.

The judge adjourned the matter to a date later this month.


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