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Court agrees with Health Ministry against nursing bodies

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Court agrees with Health Ministry against nursing bodies

SIGNIFICANT portions of the judicial review claim of three nursing bodies against the Minister of Health have been struck out by the High Court judge hearing the matter.

On Friday, Justice Devindra Rampersad gave his decision on evidential objections raised by the minister, striking out entire portions of the TT Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA), the Midwives Association (TTMA) and the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNATT)’s claim.

He also struck out several lines of the claim which questioned the minister’s authority to appoint selected members to the Nursing Council on October 7, 2019, before any elected members were appointed.

The nursing bodies argued that it is contrary to public policy and the legislative provisions of the Nursing Personnel Act and also sought a declaration that the minister’s decision to appoint former head of the TTRNA, David Murphy, as a member of the Nursing Council, was also against public policy. These were struck out by the judge as an abuse of process since it had already been litigated in another case involving the parties.

However, he declined to strike out a declaration that the minister’s decision to appoint Murphy as a member of the council was unreasonable as well as strike out as claimants, the TTMA and the PNATT.

The judge had been asked by the minister to strike out the latter two groups since they did not possess the requisite legal personality to bring the claim, and because they are not legal entities known to law, they could not commence or defend proceedings and the purported institution of proceedings amounted to an abuse of process.

Attorneys for the groups argued that even if the TTMA and PNATT were not registered corporate bodies, they were still entitled to bring an application for judicial review, each being a group of people with sufficient interest in the issues the court is being asked to litigate.

Rampersad said the court’s power to grant relief extended to a “group of persons” which included the TTMA and the PNATT.

He said the previous matter involving Murphy against the council in 2019, in which he challenged his ouster as president of the council, the bodies were added as interested parties to that case which was heard by Justice Frank Seepersad.

Murphy was added as an interested party in this latest challenge.

Rampersad said there was no doubt in the court’s mind that the two groups were not “mere busybodies” but were associations of nurses who are legitimately interested in the outcome of the present case.

“Having regard to the functions of the Nursing Council as detailed in the decision of Seepersad in the other proceedings, it is clear that the public will be deeply interested in any matters involving such important members of the health service.

“Even more so, health professionals and workers associated as they are under the second and third claimants’ associations would no doubt have a particularly heightened interest.

“The court has no hesitation, therefore, in dismissing this objection on the ground that the Judicial Review Act allows the second and third claimants to properly bring this action as provided for,” Rampersad said.

The nursing bodies were represented by Martin George and Keshavi Koorban while the minister was represented by attorneys Terrance Bharath, Maria Belmar-Williams and Radha Sookdeo, instructed by Svetlana Dass. Murphy was represented by Gerald Ramdeen, Umesh Maharaj and Dayadai Harripaul.


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