Doctor wins $560k job back after sacking ruled 'unjust'
SENIOR Queensland Health doctor will be reinstated after his termination for the role he played in hiring an obstetrician with a history of alcohol problems was ruled "harsh, unjust and unreasonable".
Greg Coffey was sacked from his $560,000-a-year position as the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service director of medical services in September 2017 over his part in assessing the suitability for employment of Dr Jacobus Cloete at Bundaberg Hospital.
Dr Coffey made an application for reinstatement in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission.
Dr Cloete took up a permanent part-time position in Bundaberg on September 19, 2016, but lost his job about two months later after another doctor noticed his breath smelled of alcohol.
He never returned to the hospital after being asked to undergo a breath analysis test.
Dr Cloete is no longer registered to practise medicine in Australia.
At the time of employment in Bundaberg, he had conditions imposed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulatory Agency to abstain from alcohol, which were not publicly available on the agency's website, due to privacy concerns.
The conditions had been in place for two years.
Although Dr Coffey was aware of the conditions as chair of the health service's credentialing committee, he did not disclose them to other members, nor did he require Dr Cloete to undergo regular breathalyser testing as part of supervisory conditions.
Committee minutes from a September 14, 2016, meeting state that: "Dr Coffey is aware of the conditions … and is satisfied of compliance and that these conditions would not impact on patient safety".
Evidence before the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission states that: "Dr Coffey had formed the view that Dr Cloete's conditions were consistent with a doctor who had made a good recovery and was well and truly on the path to full remission from an episode of alcohol abuse."
In a 61-page judgment, industrial commissioner John Thompson ruled that although Dr Coffey's conduct "did contain an imperfection in terms of having failed to meet the highest professional standard", to terminate his position was "disproportionate" to his handling of Dr Cloete's case.
"On consideration of all the evidence and material before the Commission, I have determined that Dr Coffey's termination was "harsh, unjust and unreasonable and accordingly was unfair dismissal," Mr Thompson wrote.
Dr Coffey, who has previously had an "exemplary" career in medicine spanning more than 40 years, is overseas and could not be contacted for comment.
He is expected to recommence duty as Wide Bay director of medical services on July 8.
A Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service spokeswoman said the health district accepted the QIRC's decision.