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Nursing Council decisions declared invalid

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Nursing Council decisions declared invalid

Derek Achong

All de­ci­sions made by the Nurs­ing Coun­cil of T&T since the end its mem­bers’ term last April have been in­val­i­dat­ed.

This was the out­come of a law­suit over the man­age­ment of the or­gan­i­sa­tion, brought by for­mer pres­i­dent David Mur­phy af­ter he was oust­ed in Au­gust, last year.

In a 22-page judge­ment de­liv­ered at the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain yes­ter­day morn­ing, High Court Judge Frank Seep­er­sad ruled that there was no pro­vi­sion un­der the Nurs­ing Per­son­nel Act, which es­tab­lished the coun­cil and dic­tates func­tions to ex­tend the pow­ers of its mem­bers past their three-year term.  As a re­sult, Seep­er­sad ruled that any de­ci­sions tak­en since the ex­pi­ra­tion of the coun­cil’s term are of no ef­fect.

“The con­se­quences of the afore­said de­c­la­ra­tion res­onate with the court but it can­not and will not ig­nore or sanc­tion the ev­i­dent dis­re­gard for prop­er ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

The coun­cil con­sists of 16 mem­bers. Six are se­lect­ed by the Min­is­ter of Health, nine are elect­ed by the more than 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.

Seep­er­sad not­ed that be­fore the law­suit had gone to tri­al, he made a pre­lim­i­nary rul­ing clear­ing the way for Health Min­is­ter Ter­rence Deyals­ingh to make his ap­point­ments for the coun­cil to have a valid quo­rum to rat­i­fy pre­vi­ous de­ci­sions on non-con­tentious is­sues such as reg­is­ter­ing nurs­es and ad­min­is­ter­ing nurs­ing ex­am­i­na­tions.

“This call fell on deaf ears and the fail­ure to act, en­gen­dered in the Court the un­easy feel­ing that there was no de­sire to adopt a non-ad­ver­sar­i­al ap­proach which had the po­ten­tial to re­lieve pos­si­ble dis­tress to the in­ter­est­ed par­ties and oth­er third par­ties who were im­pact­ed by the de­ci­sions,” Seep­er­sad said.

How­ev­er, Seep­er­sad still ex­pressed hope that the is­sues would be now re­solved am­i­ca­bly and al­so sug­gest­ed that leg­isla­tive in­ter­ven­tion might al­so be use­ful.

“Far too of­ten in this Re­pub­lic, the best in­ter­est of cit­i­zens and the prop­er dis­charge of statu­to­ry oblig­a­tions are cir­cum­vent­ed by in­su­lar con­cerns and fo­cus is not placed up­on the is­sues for res­o­lu­tion but up­on the per­son­al­i­ties in­volved. Per­son­al agen­das per­sis­tent­ly trump pro­pri­ety, prac­ti­cal im­pli­ca­tions and the pledge to serve,” he said.

As a sec­ondary is­sue in the law­suit, Mur­phy, prin­ci­pal of the School of Nurs­ing at the St Ann’s Psy­chi­atric Hos­pi­tal and a Sev­enth-Day Ad­ven­tist pas­tor, chal­lenged a de­ci­sion by his fel­low coun­cil mem­bers to oust him and ap­point Chris Craig­well to the po­si­tion.

While Seep­er­sad agreed that the elec­tion was not valid, he said Mur­phy had to shoul­der some of the blame as he con­tin­ued to act and on­ly sought to seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion on the pow­er of the coun­cil af­ter he was re­moved.

“The in­stant claimant was ac­tive­ly in­volved in the un­law­ful and unau­tho­rised ef­fect­ing of de­ci­sions and ought to have sought the le­gal ad­vice which he sub­se­quent­ly re­ceived and which pre­sum­ably led to the in­sti­tu­tion of the in­stant pro­ceed­ings be­fore he over­saw the process­es which pur­port­ed to ef­fect the un­law­ful and unau­tho­rised post-April 2019 de­ci­sion,” Seep­er­sad said.

Al­though Mur­phy es­sen­tial­ly won his law­suit, based on Seep­er­sad find­ings against him, he (Seep­er­sad) or­dered that the par­ties bear their own le­gal costs for pur­su­ing the law­suit.

Judge­ment in the case comes a week af­ter sev­er­al pro­fes­sion­al groups rep­re­sent­ing al­most 3,000 reg­is­tered nurs­es were giv­en the green light to chal­lenge Deyals­ingh’s de­ci­sion to reap­point Mur­phy af­ter Seep­er­sad’s ini­tial rul­ing.

In their law­suit, the as­so­ci­a­tions are con­tend­ing that Deyals­ingh’s de­ci­sion, tak­en in Oc­to­ber last year, was ir­ra­tional, un­jus­ti­fied and im­prop­er. The as­so­ci­a­tions are seek­ing de­c­la­ra­tions against the de­ci­sion as well as an or­der seek­ing to re­verse it.

The case is ex­pect­ed to come up for hear­ing this morn­ing.

Mur­phy was rep­re­sent­ed by Ger­ald Ramdeen, Dayadai Har­ri­paul, and Umesh Ma­haraj. Elaine Green rep­re­sent­ed the coun­cil, while Mar­tin George rep­re­sent­ed the nurs­ing as­so­ci­a­tions, who in­ter­vened in Mur­phy’s case.



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