Judge lashes NWRHA for firing pharmacist

PHARMACIST Ameena Ali, who transferred from the Ministry of Health to the NorthWest Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) as the primary health care administrator, was yesterday found by a High Court judge to have been treated unjustly when the NWRHA made her post redundant. “Public officials have to be reminded that their source of power and authority comes from the people through their elected representatives in Parliament,” declared Justice Sebastien Ventour. In a 47-page judgment, Ventour ruled that the NWRHA’s decision in September last year to make Ali’s position redundant was illegal, null and void.

Ali, 42, of San Juan, was a pharmacist II attached to the St Ann’s Hospital. On June 25, 2001, the acting CEO of the NWRHA offered her employment as an administrator — primary health care centres. Ali took up duties on a two-year contract but on June 3, 2003, the NWRHA’s terminated her services, just three months before her two-year contract ended. On May 20, 2003, the NWRHA had informed Ali that a new organisational structure had rendered her position redundant, but Ali exercised her option to remain employed with the authority. However, the Ministry of Health subsequently wrote to Ali instructing her to report to the Permanent Secretary, since she was no longer employed with the NWRHA.

In October last year, Ali was granted leave by a San Fernando High Court judge to seek judicial review of the NWRHA’s decision. She sued the NWRHA, the Minister of Health and his Permanent Secretary. Attorney Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj SC, instructed by attorney Dinesh Rambhally, represented Ali, while attorney Neil Bisnath appeared for the authority. Justice Ventour stated that the NWRHA failed to produce evidence to show there was an overriding public interest in abolishing Ali’s post of administrator of primary health care centres.

Ventour stated that though the reorganisation was aimed at making the authority more effective, it was not at liberty to ignore Ali’s legitimate expectation of working in the position until her contract ended. In fact, Ventour stated on page 33 of his judgment that he was taken aback by the manner in which Ali was terminated. The letter was tantamount to a summary dismissal “without highlighting any serious breach of contract on the part of the applicant (Ali.)” Stating that the termination letter failed to consider Ali’s interest, Ventour wrote, “I am left with no alternative but to hold that the decision of the board to terminate the services of the applicant was, in all the circumstances, unjust, unfair, unreasonable and unlawful.”


"Judge lashes NWRHA for firing pharmacist"

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