A SACKED surgeon is seeking millions of pounds in damages after winning an unfair dismissal case against Basildon Hospital.
Arjuna Weerasinghe, 50, successfully fought hospital bosses who got rid of him for travelling to a job interview and seminars while he was off sick with chest problems.
He claimed he had contracted pneumonia while working in dirty operating theatres, which the tribunal heard had not had the walls deep-cleaned for 15 months.
The specialist surgeon was insistent he was investigated only because he had spoken out about missing equipment during an operation, which he believed could have helped save the patient’s life.
An employment tribunal, which has this week released its judgement, backed the surgeon and ruled he was unfairly dismissed.
Mr Weerasinghe said: “This has been a very difficult time for me and my family.
“I believe my public interest disclosures regarding the unavailability of appropriate equipment and material in this case were a major influence in the decision to investigate and then dismiss me.
“The extreme efforts made by senior individuals at Basildon Hospital over the past four years have gone towards tarnishing my credibility, reputation and professional career. It has had crippling effects.”
The surgeon had raised concerns in 2011 after there was no absorption aid to stem a huge bleed during a 61-year-old patient’s heart surgery.
The patient, from Jaywick, Clacton, died three days later.
Mr Weerasinghe told the East London employment tribunal the equipment could have helped save the patient’s life, and had told the hospital at the time.
Three months later he refused to start a planned operation as the absorption aid was still not stocked within the theatre.
The tribunal judge also heard it took 14 months for the hospital to respond to a coroner’s request for a report into the death – and a sentence exonerating the emergency team of any blame had been removed.
The author of the report to the coroner had also been told to provide a “quick and dirty response”, which the tribunal said meant get rid of the case quickly and quietly to avoid litigation.
The tribunal concluded the hospital’s report to the coroner played down the circumstances surrounding the patient’s death.
The Essex coroner has been made aware of their concerns.
The tribunal concluded Mr Weerasinghe had done nothing wrong in going to the interview and seminars and he had been unfairly dismissed for gross misconduct in 2012.
Discussions about damages, believed to be as much as £4million, are ongoing.
Basildon Hospital has pledged to learn from the findings of the tribunal.
The Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is considering the findings of the judgement and conducting an internal review to ensure all issues raised have been addressed.
A trust spokesman said: “We would like to make it clear the judge concluded Mr Weerasinghe was not dismissed for raising issues relating to patient care.
“This case relates to allegations at the trust, which date back to 2011, and we acknowledge some concerns were raised about historic practice.
“However, since this time, the trust has made significant improvements to the services we provide for patients and, only last month, was rated ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission, the NHS regulator.”
He stressed patient safety is the utmost priority and the most recent Care Quality Commission inspection found operating theatre staff completed safety checks before, during and after surgery.
He added: “They also noted good infection prevention practices were in place and hygiene audits completed in theatres showed 100 per cent compliance for the month prior to their visit.”