Health worker claims hospital discriminates against non-Christians

Mater’s mission policy urges staff to take part in ‘the healing ministry of Christ’

The Mater said it was “welcoming of all religions and none” among staff and patients. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

The Mater said it was “welcoming of all religions and none” among staff and patients. Photograph: Frank Miller / The Irish Times

 

A health worker at the Mater Hospital has complained it is discriminating against non-Christians through a mission statement that urges staff to take part in the “healing ministry of Jesus Christ”.

The reliance on religious identity in the statement creates a hostile environment and is “confusing and constraining”, the employee claimed.

The issue arose when a person in the hospital told senior managers a difficulty had arisen at work since the hospital changed its procedures on policy statements. These now required the inclusion of a reference to the effect that the work of staff was guided by the hospital’s mission statement, the person said.

The Mater Hospital is a voluntary hospital founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1861. The mission statement includes the statement: “By caring for the sick in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital we participate in the healing ministry of Jesus Christ….”

The staff member said this requirement presented a number of difficulties. As a non-Christian, they “cannot claim to participate in such a healing ministry” and are “unsure” what the ministry is.

The person said they were not aware of any research which suggested this ministry was consistent with “evidenced-based best practice”.

“As such, I believe the policy of including this mission statement prevents me from authoring and adhering to policies in good faith based on religious identity,” they said.

“I find the evocation of a religious figure, whom I do not recognise, in the policy text to be confusing and constraining.”

The “practice” contravenes HSE dignity at work policy, the person suggested, “by creating a hostile environment for me to do policy work based on religious identity” and a HSE statement on diversity, equality and inclusion “by not valuing or accommodating a non-Christian belief system”. Discrimination on religious grounds under the Employment Equality Act was also alleged.

The Mater said it was “welcoming of all religions and none” among staff and patients. “We have 56 different nationalities on our staff and at all times respect their diversity,” a spokeswoman said.

The hospital’s mission statement has remained the same “for decades” though last year its use was “standardised across all policy templates for consistency, including on our website”.

The hospital confirmed it had received one complaint on the use of the mission statement but said this has since been resolved.