News Health

Monday 22 September 2014

Doctor alleges he was bullied working for disability group

Shane Phelan, Public Affairs Editor

Published 21/05/2014 | 02:30

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Dr Mark Harrold
Dr Mark Harrold

A FORMER employee of a State-funded intellectual disability organisation has made allegations of bullying to the Dail's spending watchdog.

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Dr Mark Harrold, a former employee of St Michael's House in Dublin, made the claims in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In the correspondence he claimed he was forced to leave his job after raising concerns about the treatment of Peter McKenna, a man with Down syndrome who died after being transferred from a St Michael's House facility to the Leas Cross nursing home in north Co Dublin in 2000.

He says he raised concerns with his employers and board that it was unsuitable to transfer a 60-year-old disabled resident to Leas Cross, which was subsequently closed down following an RTE exposé of conditions there.

Dr Harrold, a clinical psychologist, urged the PAC to investigate sums spent by St Michael's House on public relations advice in relation to the McKenna case and its defence of an unsuccessful employment appeals case he took in 2005.

In the letter he said: "It is estimated that they spent €1m of public funds between my case and ... the Peter McKenna case."

It is unclear whether the PAC will call St Michael's House to appear to answer questions about the issues raised.

Response

A spokesman for the disability organisation said it rejects the comments of Mr Harrold on numerous grounds.

He pointed out the matters raised had already been the subject of two independent inquiries and an employment appeals tribunal, the findings of which are on the public record.

The spokesman St Michael's House will write to the PAC and provide a detailed response to the issues raised.

In the letter, Dr Harrold accused management at the organisation of embarking "on a campaign of bullying and character assassination" after he highlighted the treatment of Mr McKenna.

He said the board nominated a committee to investigate his complaint, but he declined to co-operate with it as he was unhappy with its composition.

It was a complaint by Dr Harrold to then Health Minister Micheal Martin which sparked the Hynes Report into Leas Cross.

The doctor claimed in the letter that subsequent to his complaint to the minister, eight "spurious" allegations were made about his work performance.

He said he resigned in March 2004 as his wife had just had their first child and "the stress was unbearable for both of us".

Dr Harrold subsequently took a constructive dismissal case against St Michael's House, which he lost.

Many of the claims made in the letter were previously aired at the employment appeals tribunal.

Irish Independent

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