Consultant doctor brings fresh challenge seeking to be allowed return to work

Gynaecologist was placed on administrative leave after concerns raised about research

A consultant gynaecologist has brought a High Court challenge against the HSE's decision that he remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of a probe which could result in his dismissal from his post.

The action has been taken by Professor Ray O’Sullivan, who has been on administrative leave from his position at St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny on full pay since August 2019.

He was put on leave by his employer, the HSE, following an investigation into alleged misconduct after nursing staff at the hospital raised concerns.

Prof O’Sullivan has strongly rejected all allegations of wrongdoing against him.

It is claimed that he carried out unauthorised and unapproved actions and procedures on five female patients in 2018.

None of the patients had been informed about the research or consented to the procedure, nor had they been aware of it afterwards, it is claimed.

It is also alleged that Prof O’Sullivan did not obtain clearance from the hospital’s ethics committee and had sourced the instruments for the procedures outside of the hospital’s usual procurement channels with his own funds.

Prof O’Sullivan says that the investigations against him were biased because he has been an “outspoken advocate for patients’ rights and in particular pregnant women”.

Following an investigation into the matters that resulted in Prof O’Sullivan being placed on administrative leave the HSE made a recommendation that he be dismissed from his role at St Luke’s.

The recommendation was referred to a committee established by the Minister for Health, which will decide if Prof O’Sullivan is to be dismissed or not.

Prof O’Sullivan brought a High Court action challenging the recommendation and sought to have it set aside on grounds that the investigation was flawed.

In a judgement last year Mr Justice Anthony Barr dismissed the Professor's action and lifted the stay on the investigation into the matters complained of.

That decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal, and a decision from that court is awaited.

The High Court heard that Prof O’Sullivan also asked the HSE to review the decision to place him on administrative leave and that he be allowed return to work.

Several submissions were made to the HSE's CEO Paul Reid in support of his request including the contents of a report conducted on behalf of the HSE by a medical expert which states that Prof O'Sullivan did not pose any risk to patients.

However, the HSE decided last December that Prof O'Sullivan should remain on leave pending the conclusion of a process currently being undertaken by the Ministerial Committee.

Represented by Eoin Clifford SC and Frederick Gilligan Bl, Prof O'Sullivan has brought High Court judicial review proceedings aimed at quashing the decision that he should remain on paid leave, and that he be reinstated to his role as a consultant obstetrician gynaecologist.

As well as seeking the order quashing that decision, he also seeks declarations that the HSE failed to furnish him with adequate reasons for keeping him on administrative leave. He further seeks damages from the HSE.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted by Mr Justice Charles Meenan, on an ex-parte basis. The judge made the matter returnable to a date in May.