Legal wrangling in Nursing Council continues

Delivering an oral judgement at the Hall of Justice in Port-of- Spain, yesterday morning, Justice Frank Seepersad dismissed the application, in which the council was claiming that Murphy’s case is an abuse of process as he was nominated back into the organisation, last month.

Seepersad stated that Murphy’s current position had no bearing on the case as he was nominated to the board by Health Minister Terrance Deyalsingh, as opposed to being elected like when he held the post of president.

Seepersad stated that the suggestion was not logical, fair or reasonable as it would mean that a member of a public body would have to resign before taking legal action against it for egregious conduct.

Seepersad ruled that Murphy’s case was not rendered academic and noted that he (Murphy) was advocating for the council to uphold the rule of law in its activities.

“This ought to be encouraged not discouraged,” Seepersad said.

After delivering his ruling, Seepersad set deadlines for the parties to file submissions on the substantive legal issues in the case. Once the deadlines are met, Seepersad is expected to deliver his final judgement in the case, early next year.

Murphy filed the lawsuit in early September, after his fellow council members called an 807th ordinary meeting on August 26, during which he was ousted and Chris Craigwell was appointed as interim president.

Murphy claimed that the Nursing Personnel Act, which established the council and dictates functions, does not allow the council to take major decisions after its term ended in April.

He also alleged that the legislation does provide for an interim president of the organisation.

Murphy also claimed that his fellow council members’ decision to pass a no-confidence motion in him was based on the fact that he wrote to Deyalsingh to complain over their inability to complete the outstanding elections of the elected members of the council.

Murphy, the principal of the School of Nursing at the St Ann’s Psychiatric Hospital and a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, claimed that elections were held after the council’s term expired but the results have never been released.

During a preliminary hearing, Seepersad ruled that contrary to what was claimed by lawyers for the Ministry of Health, there is no statutory provision barring Deyalsingh from appointing six members of the council before the other members are elected.

The council consists of 16 members.

Six are selected by the Minister of Health, nine are elected by the over 10,000 members of the profession and the Chief Nursing Officer serves as an ex-officio member. The council then votes for a president, vice-president, and treasurer from among its ranks.

Deyalsingh’s appointments to the council became an issue in the case as Seepersad ruled that they would give the council a valid quorum to conduct its business of registering nurses until the other members are elected.

Although the appointments were made last month, the council is still yet to meet.

Murphy is being represented by Gerald Ramdeen, Dayadai Harripaul, and Umesh Maharaj.

The council is being represented by Elaine Greene.

Martin George and Sarah Lawrence are representing three nursing associations, whose members are aggrieved by the fact that the council has not been operational for several months.

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