Procedures cancelled at Galway Clinic amid legal dispute

Court hears of ‘wanton’ actions allegedly aimed at destroying consultant’s reputation

The intensive care unit at the Galway Clinic. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

The intensive care unit at the Galway Clinic. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

 

“Deliberate and wanton” actions by the Galway Clinic have been described in the High Court as designed to destroy the career and reputation of a consultant colorectal and vascular surgeon.

Mr Justice Robert Haughton refused an application by the clinic to vary an injunction granted to William P Joyce more than two months ago which restrains the clinic from withdrawing Mr Joyce’s admission and operating privileges.

Eugene Gleeson SC, counsel for Mr Joyce, told the court the clinic’s chief executive, Joe O’Donovan, had cancelled Tuesday’s endoscopy list scheduled to have been dealt with at the clinic by Mr Joyce. He said it could have a catastrophic impact on Mr Joyce’s entitlement to earn a living.

The judge, while holding that the clinic had committed a breach of the existing injunction, refused an ex-parte application by Mr Joyce to have Mr O’Donovan attached and committed to prison for contempt of court for having breached the court order.

Admission

Mr Joyce’s solicitor, Gerard O’Donnell, of O’Donnell Waters Solicitors, Galway, told the court in an affidavit that a dispute had arisen between Galway Clinic Doughiska Limited and Mr Joyce concerning an incident on July 26th, 2016.

He said the clinic sought to withdraw Mr Joyce’s admission and operating privileges but this had been blocked by the High Court on March 20th.

He described the clinic’s actions as “deliberate and wanton” .

Mr O’Donnell said it had not been brought to the attention of the court earlier by the clinic that it was carrying out an investigation of Mr Joyce’s patient charts and medical records without his knowledge or consent.

On Friday evening last, the clinic told Mr Joyce of the investigation and asked him to cancel Tuesday’s endoscopy list while a full and independent review of “issues” was undertaken.

Mr Joyce had refused and rejected any clinical wrongdoing or omission.

Mr Gleeson said Mr Joyce believed that Mr O’Donovan had breached the existing interim injunction.

He said Mr Joyce had been shocked at the clinic’s “outrageous action”, knowing how much upset this would cause patients. Mr Gleeson told the court that despite the cancellation, an elderly woman had travelled from north Donegal on Tuesday only to find her appointment had been cancelled.

No complaints

The court heard Mr Joyce had been operating at the clinic since 2004 and had in that time treated more than 20,000 patients without incident or complaint from the clinic or any patient.

Mr O’Donovan told the court Mr Joyce’s practising privileges had been terminated with a lengthy notice on February 28th, 2017, due to a breakdown in the relationship between Mr Joyce and the clinic and because of a specific clinical incident in July 2016 and its aftermath.

Mark Connaughton SC, for the clinic, said that following the granting of the injunction restraining the withdrawal of privileges to Mr Joyce, further significant issues of concern with respect to patient safety had come to light.

Mr Connaughton said Mr O’Donovan had asked two separate eminent professional colleagues of Mr Joyce, Dr Alan Coss and Dr Diarmuid Manning, to review and report on the matters in question.

Mr O’Donovan, in an affidavit, told the court he had forwarded their report to Prof Gregor Shanik, director of clinical governance at the clinic, and to Prof Anthony Cunningham, medical director of the clinic, to assess its clinical seriousness.

They had recommended he suspend Mr Joyce’s “endoscopic practice privileges in the Galway Clinic with immediate effect”.

Step aside

He had written to Mr Joyce asking him to step aside and postpone his patient list and all matters connected with his practising privileges with the exception of caring for inpatients.

He believed the clinic had a right to effect a suspension and having received a “robust and unyielding” response to his request for Mr Joyce to step aside he had been left with no alternative but to cancel Mr Joyce’s patients list for Tuesday.

Mr O’Donovan denied that he was engaged in a witch-hunt against Mr Joyce.

Mr Justice Haughton refused to vary the existing injunction, decided it had been breached and refused an order for the attachment and committal to prison of Mr O’Donovan for contempt of court.

He said the full trial of all issues relating to a permanent restraint against the clinic would be dealt with on June 14th, the beginning of the new law term.