Doctor claims her career is ruined after raising concerns at Northland DHB

Lynda Emmerson lost her job after writing a controlled drug prescription for her partner.

Lynda Emmerson lost her job after writing a controlled drug prescription for her partner.

A junior doctor claims she was bullied by a senior staff member after trying to address "dangerous" practices at a major hospital.

Lynda Emmerson, fired for prescribing drugs for her partner, has taken a case for unjustified dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority, which started to hear it this week.

According to her brief of evidence, Emmerson said she was alarmed at Northland District Health Board practices she came across when starting work as a house surgeon in 2012.

She alleged there was a lack of monitoring, documentation, doctor responsibility for ordering tests, incorrect recording and management of abnormal test results. "It was dangerous and I felt it was only a matter of time until a patient died as a result."

When Emmerson raised concerns with senior staff, she claims she was bullied.

She was also asked to do things that she felt were unethical, such as telling a patient the doctors would write to the court saying she should not be given access to her children if she did not allow them to sit in on a meeting with her lawyer.

"In some instances the management of our patient's physical health actually regressed."

Emmerson, who retrained as a doctor after initially pursuing a career in law, also claims she was used as a senior staff member's private lawyer.

She said she was "belittled and humiliated" at every opportunity.

"I honestly didn't know what to do.  I couldn't sleep at night because I was so upset and would spend all night lying in bed racking my brain trying to think of ways to improve the situation. The weight was falling off me. In the six months I was on the ward I lost 25kg. It was purely stress."

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She was eventually dismissed last year, for writing a controlled drug script for painkillers for her partner. It was alleged that he was a drug addict. 

Emmerson was reported to the medical council, which cleared her to practice after five months.

Emmerson said she had since been unable to find work anywhere else.  She said she had been "bad mouthed" to other DHBs and was unlikely to be able to continue her psychiatric training in New Zealand.

Emmerson said she had racked up $50,000 in debt and lost her house since she was fired.

"I have been financially ruined. I only hope I'm not responsible for my parents losing their house as they are guarantors on our mortgage due to the new equity lending ratios."

A Northland District Health Board spokeswoman rejected Emmerson's version of events.

The DHB said she had failed in her professional responsibility to understand the guidance in Coles Good Medical Practice and in the Medical Council Standards.

"Prescribing controlled drugs to her partner was a breach of both Coles Good Medical Practice and the Medical Council of New Zealand Standards, and the fact that she has been doing this for over a year is an aggravating factor."

The case began in Whangarei this week. ERA have directed the case go back to mediation, and a judicial conference is scheduled for March 1. That could lead to a new trial or Emmerson's case could go straight to the Employment Court. 

 - Stuff

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