Saolta chief fails to get injunction preventing his removal from post

High Court refuses Maurice Power injunction preventing HSE removing him from role

The HSE argued Maurice Power did not have a contract of indefinite duration for the position of Saolta chief executive and had been employed as chief executive on a series of fixed-term contracts.

The HSE argued Maurice Power did not have a contract of indefinite duration for the position of Saolta chief executive and had been employed as chief executive on a series of fixed-term contracts.

 

The chief executive of a group operating several public hospitals has failed to get a High Court injunction preventing the HSE removing him from his role.

Maurice Power was, in 2014, appointed chief executive of Saolta University Health Care Group, which runs public hospitals in Co Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, Sligo and Donegal.

Pending the outcome of proceedings against the HSE before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), he had sought various orders preventing his removal from the post.

On Wednesday, Mr Justice Senan Allen refused to grant the injunctions sought.

The High Court, he said, had no jurisdiction to adjudicate on the merits of Mr Power’s claim against the HSE or on what the appropriate remedy would be if he were to succeed before the bodies empowered by law to determine the dispute.

Mr Power, of Moycullen, Co Galway, wanted orders including preventing the HSE terminating his employment as the group’s chief executive and appointing anyone else as the group’s chief executive pending the outcome of his claim before the WRC.

He claims he has an entitlement to a contract of indefinite duration in respect of his role and the HSE has acted wrongfully and in breach of his contract of employment.

The action arose after the HSE embarked earlier this year on a process of recruiting a chief executive for the Saolta group, which has more than 10,000 staff and an annual budget of more than €850 million.

Mr Power applied and was called to a preliminary interview but was not invited to the second round of interviews. He appealed the decision not to include him in the second round and has also lodged a claim with the WRC.

Mr Power claimed he was wrongfully forced to apply for his own role and the recruitment process could not be lawfully held. Mr Power had been the group’s chief financial officer before becoming the chief executive.

Indefinite duration

It is claimed he had been told by the HSE he would revert to that position but his lawyers argued another person who had been the group’s chief financial officer had claimed they were entitled to a contract of indefinite duration in respect of that role.

The HSE argued Mr Power did not have a contract of indefinite duration for the position of Saolta chief executive and had been employed as chief executive on a series of fixed-term contracts.

It also argued the High Court could not grant an injunction in a case where it lacked jurisdiction to decide the substance of the dispute. It further argued his employment had not been terminated and he would return to the role he previously held with the defendant prior to him taking up the role as interim chief executive.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Allen agreed the High Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain this application.

The High Court had no inherent jurisdiction to supplement remedies made available to administrative tribunals, such as the WRC, for the enforcement of statutory rights, he said.

The orders sought by Mr Power were not orders in aid of his claim before the WRC but orders aimed at shaping the remedy which might be ordered if his claim was to succeed, he said.

The judge said Mr Power was not under threat of dismissal but rather would revert to his former position as chief financial officer, which was also a well-paid job with the HSE.