x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hospital not obliged to renew nurse's contract

The decision not to renew the employment contract of a nurse was not arbitrary and was in compliance with the law, a court has ruled.

ABU DHABI // The decision not to renew the employment contract of a nurse at Al Mafraq Hospital was not arbitrary and was in compliance with the law, the Court of Appeal has ruled. The nurse is among the 160 nurses from India, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories and Jordan whose cases were heard by the Court of Appeal earlier this year. "At least three of us got a copy of the verdict," said a nurse who worked at the hospital for more than 10 years. "I need to consult my lawyer on what to do next."

Romy Castillo, a representative for the sacked Filipino nurses, said between 20 and 30 nurses of different nationalities were expecting their ruling by Monday and Tuesday next week. "We expect everyone to get their verdict this month," he said. The court heard the cases individually rather than a class-action lawsuit. More than 200 nurses who said they were unfairly dismissed had filed a case before the Court of First Instance last year. Some, however, had decided not to pursue the case in the Court of Appeal. "They could not afford Dh3,000 (US$817) in court fees," Mr Castillo said. "Others withdrew their case when they were transferred to the clinic."

The lower courts heard the cases over more than two months. They gathered evidence and made recommendations on the cases to the Court of Appeal, which began issuing rulings in late February. In its decision, the court rejected the plaintiff's demand to be reinstated. The court ruled that the decision not to renew the contract was issued for the sake of public interest and therefore not arbitrary.

It cited a condition in the employment contract which states that the employer has the right to terminate the contract at any time after the probationary period for reasons other than disciplinary, provided it pays the employee his or her end-of-service benefits. The court noted that non-national employees hold temporary positions so the administrative authority has the right to renew or terminate the employment contract.

The Court of Appeal rejected the complaint against Health Authority-Abu Dhabi (HAAD) since it was not a concerned party on the case. The defendants named in the lawsuit were Al Mafraq Hospital, HAAD and Abu Dhabi Health Services Company. It also referred the plaintiff to the Court of First Instance to re-examine the second part of the lawsuit, which demands the return of the nursing license to the plaintiff.

Last year, the nurses received a memo that their contracts would not be renewed after they failed basic competency tests. Gail Smith, the chief nursing officer, said in August: "The nurses weren't very good and couldn't pass a basic test." The nurses were all tested on routine subjects such as how to dress a wound, administer oral medications and do a physical assessment on a patient and were evaluated on their customer service and work ethic. Those with the best test results received wage increases, while those with the lowest scores did not have their contracts renewed.

rruiz@thenational.ae