Thursday 19 September 2019

HSE hopes to resolve legal dispute with five psychiatric nurses at the Aras Attracta care facility, High Court hears

Áras Attracta. Photo: Keith Heneghan
Áras Attracta. Photo: Keith Heneghan

Tim Healy

THE HSE hopes to resolve a legal dispute with five psychiatric nurses at the Aras Attracta care facility in Co Mayo over the conduct of internal investigations into complaints against them, the High Court heard.

Talks have been underway between the sides since Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy ruled earlier this month the five were entitled to injunctions restraining the HSE continuing with investigations unless those complied with the HSE’s Trust in Care and disciplinary procedures.

The decision affects 12 other Aras Attracta staff subject to the same investigations.

The five - Lyndsey Conway, Carmel Doherty, Mary Prendergast, Vidhya Maverly and Marie Kilcoyne - are being investigated following undercover filming by RTE's "Prime Time Investigates" in 2014 of events at the facility, which caters for adults with intellectual disabilities.

All five remain suspended on full pay and none are subject to any criminal proceedings.

The judge granted the injunctions on February 5 after finding the staff had a strong case the HSE acted in breach of its own procedures governing such investigations.

She criticised the HSE for its “reprehensible” attitude to efforts of the nurses trade union, the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA), to resolve internally “serious issues” over conduct of the investigations.

The injunctions were to apply pending a full hearing of the action but Peter Ward SC, for the HSE, told the judge Wednesday (Feb 24) it was  hoped there will be no need for that full hearing.

The HSE, which previously asked the judge to defer formal publication of her ruling, was not seeking any further deferral, counsel said.

The judge said the talks between the sides may obviate the need for the court to make formal orders.

While this matter was adjourned twice since February 5 to facilitate the sides, the court considered, once judgment was given, it belongs to the public and not the parties.

While she heard what the HSE said about assurances concerning general conduct of industrial relations between it and various unions, nothing that had been said contradicted the facts as found by her, the judge said.

No explanation was given during the hearing concerning the HSE’s failure to respond to the PNA correspondence, she added.

She directed her judgment should be formally published now and adjourned making final orders to March 23.

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