A CORK paramedic who was suspended from work over four years ago has gone to the High Court in a bid to be reinstated.
The action against the HSE has been brought by David Walker, an advanced paramedic, who was suspended and placed on paid administrative leave in 2018 following an allegation that he and a colleague allegedly disengaged from an emergency call without authorisation or approval.
Following an investigation, which the Co Cork-based Mr Walker claims was the subject of a lengthy delay, the HSE made findings against him.
In May 2020 he was summarily dismissed from his job by the HSE for alleged misconduct.
He immediately appealed that decision to the HSE’s disciplinary appeals committee (DAC).
In early 2021, the DAC overturned that decision, which it said was “too harsh given the circumstances” and when the length of his service as a paramedic was taken into consideration. It also held that the delay in processing the investigation was unwarranted, unjustified, and had damaged his reputation.
The DAC further held that Mr Walker’s suspension had been invoked unlawfully and that the HSE had failed in its duty to him to carry out an investigation expeditiously.
The DAC recommended that he be demoted in grade from “advanced paramedic” to “emergency medical technician” with immediate effect, that his duties be altered accordingly, and that the matter be reviewed in a year by an independent evaluator.
However, Mr Walker, who fully accepts the DAC’s findings, claims that the HSE has failed to implement that body’s recommendations.
He claims the HSE only arranged a back-to-work meeting with him in December 2021, eight months after the DAC issued its findings. He also claims that his back-to-work date was fixed by the HSE as December 2022, which he claims is contrary to the DAC’s findings.
He claims he had a legitimate expectation that he would be allowed to return to work in March 2022, some 12 months after the DAC had issued its findings and recommendation.
He is willing and available for work but when he presented at his place of employment he was told to go home, the court heard.
However, the HSE informed him in several letters in March that he could not return to work without having completed the training programmes for the position he was demoted from.
Mr Walker claims he has been unable to attend the training courses in question.
This was due to factors including that he was not being given enough time to make arrangements so he could attend a training course in December 2021. Another training programme he was asked to go on only dealt with basic skills and was not suitable, he claims.
He claims the HSE has blocked, delayed, and impeded his efforts to return to work. As a result, he has brought High Court proceedings against his employer over what he claims is the HSE’s refusal to implement the DAC’s recommendations.
He says that he is at a complete loss as to why the recommendations have not been carried out.
In his judicial review action against the HSE, Mr Walker of Grange Manor, Ovens, Co Cork, represented by Martin Hayden SC, seeks various orders and declarations including an order requiring the respondent to immediately reinstate him to his position.
He also seeks a declaration that the HSE has acted in breach of contract against him and that the HSE’s failure to execute the DAC’s recommendations amounts to breaches of his constitutional rights to fair procedures, to earn a livelihood, and his right to a good name and reputation.
The matter came before Mr Justice Anthony Barr, who granted the applicant permission, on an ex-parte basis, to bring his challenge.
The matter will come back to court in October.