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Anaesthetist settles her case against Western Health Trust for £500,000

By Alan Erwin

Published 01/10/2016

The new South West Acute Hospital replaced the Erne Hospital in 2012
The new South West Acute Hospital replaced the Erne Hospital in 2012

A consultant anaesthetist is to be paid £500,000 as part of a settlement reached in her legal action against the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

Margaret Drozdowicz has also agreed to resign from her post under the terms of the resolution confirmed at the High Court in Belfast yesterday.

Dr Drozdowicz sued for alleged breach of contract linked to her exclusion from the Erne Hospital in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, in 2013.

But after a week-long hearing, Mr Justice Stephens was told the parties had arrived at a full and final settlement, with no admission of liability for any of her claims.

The Trust is also to pay Dr Drozdowicz's costs in taking the lawsuit.

The anaesthetist, a Polish national, came to Northern Ireland to work within the National Health Service in 2005.

Within two years she was promoted to the position of consultant, and by 2009 obtained the position of lead in obstetric anaesthesia. But by 2011 her relationship with some medical colleagues was said to have broken down.

She was subjected to restrictions following a number of complaints from other staff at the hospital accusing her of unprofessional behaviour.

Her exclusion came after another member of staff was no longer prepared to supervise her.

A process to assess her clinical competence and ability to resume working relationships with medical colleagues is understood to remain incomplete.

Dr Drozdowicz claimed she had been isolated and ostracised by colleagues after she performed an audit on the efficiency of theatres within the Erne Hospital.

She alleged her audit showed inefficiencies and raised serious concerns about the value for money from theatre use and employment of consultants.

According to her case the Trust failed to properly investigate her complaints.

She also claimed that her actions led to 13 unfounded grievances about her from colleagues.

The campaign of complaints were an attempt to discredit her after she raised issues about theatres being used for private practice during NHS hours and the use of a drug to counteract deep vein thrombosis, she alleged.

The Trust disputed her allegations, with the court told that an investigation has not upheld her concerns.

There is no suggestion in the case of any harm to patients.

During proceedings Dr Drozdowicz alleged that a dying patient had received substandard care after being brought into the Erne in November 2013.

The 64-year-old man, described as a heavy smoker and drinker, was diagnosed as suffering from complaints including pneumonia. In cross-examination it was alleged that Dr Drozdowicz was raising her voice and frantically waving ECG forms about within the critical care unit. A nurse was said to have told her to lower her voice amid concerns the patient's relatives may witness her actions.

But following out of court discussions it was announced that the breach of contract action had been resolved.

Dr Drozdowicz's solicitor, Barry McCaul, of McGale Kelly and Co. in Omagh, confirmed later that she is to be paid £500,000 plus full costs. Mr McCaul added: "My client is relieved at the outcome, which will see her make a clean break from her employment with the Trust."

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