A nurse is making a human rights claim against Queensland Health after being threatened with dismissal for speaking to the media.
She argues the state’s new human rights laws give her the right to speak publicly as a union delegate.
Nurse making human rights claim spoke about nurse training
Margaret Gilbert worked as a nurse for 40 years in Brisbane, and is currently duty manager at Prince Charles Hospital.
Metro North Hospital and Health Services sent her a “show cause” email accusing her of breaching media regulations.
She spoke to The Sunday Mail on November 24 about declining standards of nurse training, in addition to the lack of practical training for students.
Queensland Health alleges Gilbert caused the public to lose confidence in nursing at the hospital, and furthermore, deterred candidates from joining the profession.
In addition, it alleges the comments caused damage to the relationship between Metro North and partner universities.
As a result, the email threatens disciplinary action, including demotion, reprimand, redeployment, a monetary penalty or dismissal.
Nurse speaking on behalf of members
Gilbert says she spoke publicly in her role as union delegate for the Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland (NPAQ).
The NPAQ is a rival union to the established Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union (QNMU).
Gag order is a breach of human rights
Worker Law is representing Gilbert on behalf of the NPAQ.
Spokesperson Miles Heffernan said the media gag order is a breach of Gilbert’s human rights, under laws introduced on 1 January 2020:
“Queensland Health is treating Ms Gilbert unfairly, and further, we will argue the state has contravened its own human rights laws.
“In particular, the sections involving freedom of association and freedom of expression that protect people from adverse action when acting as spokespeople for industrial associations.”
Urgent injunction sought
On Friday, Worker Law commenced proceedings in the Industrial Relations Commission on behalf of the NPAQ and Gilbert.
This is the first test of the new Human Rights Act.
The case will impact public servants currently too scared to speak out about official wrongdoings.
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