Technician compensated for wrongful firing

SARAH HARVEY
Last updated 08:45 27/12/2013

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A technician who was fired after she "terrified" renal failure patients she was treating has been awarded $2500 because proper processes were not followed.

However Judith Lee, who was employed by the Auckland District Health Board in the haemodialysis unit at Auckland City Hospital, will not get her job back because of her incompetence, the Employment Relations Authority says.

In its decision, released recently, the ERA said Lee had been working for the health board since 1998 until her dismissal in July.

There had been two patient complaints about Lee in 2009 but no disciplinary action was taken.

In May 2010 she received a written warning for sleeping at work, high non-work internet usage and not following proper procedures for sterilising, the ERA said. She received a final warning in February 2011 and underwent an intensive three-months of supervision.

However between December 2012 and February this year patients and staff complained about her behaviour including instances where she told a patient to "steri strip yourself" and incorrectly disconnected tubing meaning blood would spill on to the floor.

Lee said the complaints were a misinterpretation due to language difficulties. She also pointed to her 15 years of experience in dialysis, the ERA report said. She accepted she had lost her temper and raised her voice but said she did not kick a sharps bin as alleged.

A series of meetings followed and as a result Lee was dismissed.

She subsequently filed for urgent reinstatement saying the investigation into her behaviour by her manager, Suzanne Joynt, was unfair. The ERA agreed Lee's dismissal was unfair because she had not been warned that the disciplinary meeting could result in her being fired. There was also a lack of investigation into complaints.

However the ERA said it could not reinstate Lee because of competency issues and because her behaviour had contributed to her dismissal.

"Lee admitted inappropriate behaviour towards, and in front of, patients," the ERA decision said.

"There was evidence patients are not comfortable with her caring for them, some reportedly terrified and scared of her."

The authority ordered the health board to pay Lee $5000 which was reduced to $2500 because of her behaviour.

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- Fairfax Media

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