Consultant entitled to injunctions against clinic, judge rules

Galway Clinic withdrew admission and operating privileges from Prof William P Joyce

 

The High Court has ruled a consultant surgeon is entitled to continuing injunctions preventing a private clinic withdrawing his admission and operating privileges there.

Ms Justice Deidre Murphy found Professor William P Joyce, a consultant colorectal and vascular surgeon, was entitled to the injunctions against Galway Clinic Doughiska Ltd pending the outcome of a full hearing of the legal dispute between the sides.

Prof Joyce previously obtained temporary injunctions after the private hospital informed him in February his practising privileges were to be terminated from the end of May 2017.

The clinic, which sought to have the injunctions discharged, said it withdrew the privileges over patient safety concerns following an incident on July 26th 2016.

An External Review Committee had found the professor had intended to administer an anaesthetic called for by him while he was treating patients attending at the clinic. Only anaesthetists are permitted to administer the drug.

Prof Joyce, who has practised at the clinic since 2004, strongly denied the accusation and denied he represented a risk to patient safety.

‘Much to be desired’

In her judgment, Ms Justice Murphy said she was satisfied Prof Joyce had raised a fair issue to be tried on grounds fair procedures were not carried out by the clinic after a complaint was made following the incident on July 26th, 2016.

While it was appropriate an external investigation into the allegation be conducted, the manner in which that process was conducted “left much to be desired”, she said.

The judge said the investigation was carried out by skilled physicians, but they were “not investigators.”

The deficiencies in the investigation were “manifest”, she said.

One prominent witness to the event on July 26th had been accredited by the investigators as saying something the witness later denied saying, she noted.

The fact Prof Joyce was interviewed by the external investigators before other witnesses also deprived him of the chance to rebut the allegations against him.

Before the incident of July 26th, there had been difficulties between Prof Joyce and management over issues concerning alleged misdiagnosis at the clinic’s pathology department, she said.

The judge also said, during the initial internal investigation process and before the external committee was formed, there had been an element of prejudging the complaint against Prof Joyce.

‘Sceptical’

She was also “sceptical” of allegations concerning issues of patient safety raised by the clinic during the course of proceedings.

Any such matter should be reported to the medical council, she said. Prof Joyce, she noted, had been at the clinic for 13 years and had carried out tens of thousands of procedures without incident. He also had the support of some 32 colleagues, she added.

She also found, if the injunctions were refused and Prof Joyce won the full case, damages would not be an adequate remedy given the very serious reputational damage Prof Joyce would have suffered by the loss of privileges.

The balance of convenience also favoured the granting of the injunction, she ruled. While there may be difficulties between some staff at the clinic and Prof Joyce, there seemed to be plenty who were happy to work with him, she added.

The judge has adjourned the matter to later this month.