£4.5m payout for doctor hounded out of job for having baby

 

The financial crisis engulfing three hospitals in Yorkshire was dramatically worsened yesterday after an employment tribunal awarded £4.5m compensation to a consultant who was hounded out of her job.

The huge award was made to the Polish-born Eva Michalak after she won a sex and race discrimination case against Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust which sacked her for having a baby. The trust, which runs hospitals in Dewsbury, Pinderfields and Pontefract serving a population of 500,000 people, is already struggling to make over £30m in efficiency savings and has said it needs a £14m bailout to balance the books.

The British Medical Association warned yesterday that the award could be "potentially destabilising" for the trust but defended the scale of the compensation payment to Dr Michalak. The 53-year-old consultant was first suspended in 2006 and then sacked in 2008 from her £88,000-a-year job at Pontefract General Infirmary over allegations that she had bullied junior doctors and argued with colleagues.

But an employment tribunal found last year that she had been fired "for a reason that related to [her] pregnancy".

She had been the first consultant physician at the hospital to take maternity leave in 2003 when she left work to have a baby boy. The complaints of bullying surfaced when she returned to work later the same year.

She was subjected to a campaign of harassment and false allegations from senior doctors and managers which damaged her mental and physical health as a result of which she will never work as a doctor again, the tribunal concluded.

In a damning judgment, the Leeds tribunal said it had been "outraged" at the way senior staff in the trust had behaved. The tribunal heard that "secret meetings" had been held even before she went on maternity leave. Staff later put forward evidence based on "deliberate falsehoods" to justify their allegations. The trust's then medical director was found to have "manipulated" and "engineered" her dismissal and was condemned by the tribunal as a "self-acknowledged liar".

Yesterday, Dr Michalak was awarded £1.1m for loss of past and future earnings plus £660,000 for loss of pension. She was also awarded damages for injury to her feelings and exemplary damages against the trust.

Speaking after the tribunal's decision last year, Dr Michalak said: "I suffered years of psychological abuse. They basically hounded me because I had a baby. They destroyed my life, my health and my career. The last seven years have been a living hell. Their dishonesty was staggering."

Julia Squire, chief executive of the Mid-Yorkshire Trust, apologised to Dr Michalak and said it needed time to consider the "very complex and lengthy calculations" on the size of the award.

Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's consultants committee, said the case was not representative of working in the NHS as whole.

"But, beyond doubt, when things go wrong, there is something in the NHS culture that allows them to go spectacularly wrong. People become entrenched in their positions and cannot rectify their mistakes until it is too late.

"Such an award in the current financial climate is potentially destabilising of the institution itself. It should be a reminder to management that they must lead by example.

"The award is breathtaking, but when you see what the woman went through it is hard to say it was undeserved."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003