Seepersad moves to resolve Nursing Council dispute

High Court Judge Frank Seepersad has moved to resolve a legal dispute within the Nursing Council, which had the potential to put the registration of new nurses in jeopardy. 

During a hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain, on Monday, Seepersad granted a series of interim declarations in a lawsuit brought by the council's former president David Murphy over a recent move to oust him. 

Seepersad ruled that the Nursing Personnel Act makes no provision for the council members to stay beyond their three-year term and that the council could not make decisions until it had a proper quorum. 

Seepersad also ruled that contrary to what was claimed by lawyers for the Ministry of Health, there is no statutory provision barring Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh from appointing six members of the council. 

The Ministry had claimed that previous Health Ministers would usually wait until nine other members are elected by member organisations, which form part of the council, before making the appointments. 

Seepersad said that if the six appointments are made, the council will have a proper quorum of seven including the Chief Nursing Officer, who serves as an ex-officio member. 

The quorum would then be allowed to perform the council's duties in registering nurses and administering nursing examinations until the issues with the elected members are resolved. 

In the lawsuit, Murphy contended that his fellow council members did not have the authority to call an 807th ordinary meeting on August 26, during which he was ousted and Chris Craigwell was appointed as interim president. 

They also alleged that the legislation does provide for an interim president of the organisation, which is mandated to register nursing personnel and sets standards for the education and practice of nurses and midwives in T&T. 

In his affidavit filed in support of his lawsuit, Murphy claimed that his fellow council members' decision to pass a no-confidence motion in him was based on the fact that he wrote to Deyalsingh to complain over their inability to complete the outstanding elections of the elected members of the council.

Murphy, the principal of the School of Nursing at the St Ann's Psychiatric Hospital and a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor, claimed that elections were held after the council's term expired but the results have never been released. 

As part of his orders, Seepersad gave Murphy's lawyers instructions on filing submissions in the substantive case over the move to oust him. The cases will come up for hearing on October 7. 

Murphy is being represented by Gerald Ramdeen, Dayadai Harripaul, and Umesh Maharaj, while Elaine Green is representing the council. 

- by Derek Achong

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