Swearing‚ insubordinate doctor awarded three months’ pay after being fired

A doctor who was dismissed without a disciplinary hearing has been awarded the equivalent of three months’ remuneration

A doctor who was dismissed without a disciplinary hearing for insolence‚ insubordination and gross negligence will receive compensation equivalent to three months’ remuneration.

The doctor had been abusive towards nurses and had been grossly negligent in how he attended to a pregnant patient in November 2009.

The Labour Appeal Court agreed that the dismissal of Dr Grzegorc Ludwick Pietz was substantively fair.

However‚ it said the dismissal was procedurally unfair because pre-dismissal processes were not followed.

Pietz was dismissed on December 1‚ 2009 following an incident at the South Rand district hospital during which a child was stillborn.

On 25 November 2009 at 11.05pm‚ the late Philile Hlatshwayo‚ 41, and about 27 weeks pregnant‚ was admitted to the admissions ward by a professional nurse.

The nurse discovered that the unborn child was descending with its buttocks (in breech presentation) with a protruding umbilical cord.

A decision was made to call Dr Pietz‚ the doctor on call during that night‚ to inform him of the prolapsed cord. Only a doctor is permitted to deliver a baby in these instances.

The doctor was called five minutes later and informed of the patient’s symptoms. However‚ Pietz said he would attend to the patient when she “is fully dilated to deliver”.

A medical superintendent‚ Dr Ilunga Kabale‚ who was called to intervene‚ instructed Pietz to attend to the patient immediately.

This seemed to have infuriated Dr Pietz‚ who proceeded to the ward and hurled derogatory epithets at one of the professional nurses: “f… you‚ who do you think you are”.

Pietz also said “f… you‚ f… the hospital‚ f… this management”.

He then approached one of the nurses in a threatening manner as if he would assault her.

He also kicked the drip stand‚ which fell.

The patient was admitted to the theatre for a caesarean section but the child was stillborn.

Hospital management asked Pietz on November 30 to give “a full report of all the processes you instituted in the management of the above patient [Ms P Hlatshwayo]”.

Before Pietz could explain‚ he was summarily dismissed on December 1.

Pietz referred his dismissal to the bargaining council.

The arbitrator found that the hospital had proven that Pietz had been negligent.

Although the commissioner found Pietz was not afforded the opportunity to state his case‚ he refused to award Pietz costs for his procedurally unfair dismissal.

The Labour Court dismissed Pietz’s review application with costs.

The Labour Appeal Court agreed with the Labour Court‚ except for the fact that Pietz was not given the right to be heard before being dismissed.

“The right to due process finds expression in the right to fair labour practices and in the right to be afforded a fair hearing prior to dismissal as entrenched in the [Labour Relations Act]‚” Acting Judge of Appeal Mathebe Phatshoane said in her judgment.

She said when this right was breached‚ the employee lost the constitutional protection emanating from the right to fair labour practices.

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