Case Number: ADJ-00000053. Workplace Relations Commission

CourtWorkplace Relations Commission
Docket NumberADJ-00000053
Date28 April 2016
PartiesA Nurse -V- A Hospital
ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION

Adjudication decision reference: ADJ-00000053

Dispute for Resolution:

Act

Dispute Reference No.

Date of Receipt

Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946

CA-00000082-001

06/10/2015

Date of Adjudication Hearing: 10/02/2016

Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Kevin Baneham

Procedure:

On the 6th October 2015, the Complainant referred a trade dispute to the Workplace Relations Commission, pursuant to section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act. The dispute was referred to adjudication and a hearing was held on the 10th February 2016. The Complainant attended with her trade union representative. The respondent was represented by IBEC and the HR Manager, HR administrator and the current Acting Director of Nursing attended on its behalf.

In accordance with Section 41(4) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 following the referral of the dispute to me by the Director General, I inquired into the dispute and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the dispute.

Complainant’s submission and presentation:

The Complainant commenced her employment with the respondent in the year 2000. She was initially a junior Clinical Nurse Manager, and for the last six years has worked as a senior Clinical Nurse Manager, in charge of a named ward. Prior to her employment with the respondent, she worked as a nurse in a national tertiary hospital. She outlines that on the 1st April 2014, the ward she managed began caring for a patient population referred to as the “frail elderly”. This group had greater needs than patients heretofore cared for on the ward, i.e. those recovering from orthopaedic procedures. The Complainant outlines that she was concerned that the respondent did not have the resources or procedures in place to deal with the greater needs of patients being cared for. She raised concerns with the then Acting Director of Nursing (not present at the hearing) and said that her communication with this colleague became difficult.

The Complainant outlines that the then Acting Director of Nursing made a suggestion in June 2014 that she (the Complainant) transfer to another named ward, where the patients did not have the same needs as those in her current ward. The then Acting Director of Nursing also suggested that the Complainant move to a Monday to Friday roster, when she was then working a 3-day or 4-day week (where she would work a 12-hour day on each day). The Complainant replied that she was very happy to remain on the ward. She later offered to work four midweek days in order to facilitate the respondent. At the June 2014 meeting, the then Acting Director of Nursing suggested that the Complainant undertake a particular training course and the Complainant said she would consider this. The Complainant said that some time later, she asked to undertake this course but was informed by the then Acting Director of Nursing that there was no funding to pay for this.

The Complainant refers to an incident of the 18th July 2014, where a patient on her ward was gravely ill and required end-of-life care. This was the first such incident at the respondent hospital after it commenced caring for patients with such enhanced needs. There were no protocols in place to deal with end-of-life issues and she had not been supported by the then Acting Director of Nursing. There arose difficulties in arranging this patient’s transport to a moreappropriate care facility, and the Complainant was unable to gain the support of the then Acting Director of Nursing or that of the respondent CEO. Further to the events of the 18th July 2014, the Complainant met with the then Acting Director of Nursing to raise her concerns about patient safety and the need for a risk assessment process. After this 45-minute meeting, the Complainant wrote to the then Acting Director of Nursing. In this letter dated the 22nd July 2014, the Complainant raises the change of focus in the patients cared for at her ward, in particular the change in the dependency level of the patient. She outlines that the patients require a much higher level of attention and present issues in regard to falls, feeding, toileting, sensory and cognitive issues, wandering patients,wound pressure care, mobility, pain management and liaising with patients’ families. The letter also refers to the additional duties posed by the introduction of medical cover. She raises the issues of staffing levels and the need to carry out a risk assessment. The Complainant says that it was inaccurate to interpret this letter as her not being able to cope with the demands posed by the changing patient profile in her ward, as suggested at a later meeting by the then Acting Director of Nursing.

The Complainant raised other issues regarding her workplace. At the suggestion of a hospital consultant, she had asked the respondent whether she and other staff could visit other units that cared for a similar patient population as those cared for in their wards. The respondent availed of this suggestion, but at a time when the Complainant was on annual leave, so that she could not attend. In respect of the workforce review, there was a recommendation from the review that there be a twilight nurse and that she had pushed her nurses too hard and that she was over-nursing patients. Also raised is the manner in which the HR manager communicated to a staff meeting that an Acting Director of Nursing position was not to be advertised internally as no-one had the qualifications for the role. She also raises the manner the then Acting Director of Nursing treated her at two union meetings, in which the Complainant had acted for the union. She said that at this meeting, the then Acting Director of Nursing raised her unwillingness to work Monday-to-Fridays and her unwillingness to accept the findings of a workforce review. The Complainant said she also raised gaps in medical cover to cater for patient needs.

The Complainant said that on the 22nd May 2015, the then Acting Director of Nursing informed her that she was being transferred from her ward to another ward in the respondent hospital. The then Acting Director of Nursing told her that she was not coping with the role and that she had become upset at a recent meeting. It was suggested that the Complainant could be referred to counselling from an external agency. The Complainant said that she did not agree to thetransfer and believed that she was being penalised for raising concerns about patient safety. She was taken aback by the statement that she was not coping and learnt from colleagues that staff generally in the hospital were aware of her pending transfer. On the 1st June 2015, the Complainant commenced working in the new role and lodged a grievance complaint to the respondent.

The Complainant outlines that even though she remained a senior Clinical Nurse Manager in the new ward, she continued to carry a caseload. Her successor in her old ward was supernumerary, i.e. was not asked to carry a caseload and only carried out management functions. This colleague had been supernumerary in her previous role and continued after what was essentially a swap between them. The representative of the Complainant outlined that the union was pursuing a location allowance claim for the nursing personnel working on the specialist wards, meaning that the Complainant would not gain the benefit of this claim if it was, as expected, successful as she was no longer assigned to a specialist ward.

The grievance lodged by the Complainant was scheduled for hearing on the 4th June 2015. This meeting was attended by the HR manager, the HR Assistant, the Complainant and the union representative (all present at this adjudication). The meeting came to an abrupt end on the question of whether the union representative should speak on behalf of the Complainant. Correspondence was subsequently exchanged between the parties on this question and the grievance never came to a conclusion.

In concluding comments, the Complainant said that no reason had been given to justify her transfer other than she was not coping. She said that she did not accept that this was the case. She said that she had to progress the grievance to Stage 3 as she was told that she was to be transferred within a short period of time.

Respondent’s submission and presentation:

The respondent is primarily an orthopaedic hospital, but also caters for geriatric patients, referred to the hospital for rehabilitation prior to their discharge. In respect of medical care provided at the hospital, this had previously been in the form of a GP service but this had been greatly enhanced during 2014 and 2015 tocater for the additional demands arising from the needs of...

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