Understandably, persons have been extremely concerned and seeking to understand the meaning of the recent Honourable Justice Frank Seepersad ruling and ongoing Court matter, cited in the Guardian newspaper of Friday 13th November 2019. This is not helped by the usual misinformation from a few placed in the public domain. Therefore, I will comment on the Newspaper article and some additional information I have. For simplicity they are as follows:
1) The Catalyst for this sequence would have begun, when the President (who was appointed as same by members of the Nursing Council) for the period May 2016 to April 2019 filed for Judicial Review on two main grounds:
a. Since the current Nursing Council time had expired as the elections were not held in April 2019, the Nursing Council could not have held any meetings or taken any decisions post.
b. Since the Nursing Council could not hold meetings, the meeting to replace the President (which he Chaired) in August 2019 with an Interim president, ought not to have occurred.
(The background and justification for same is irrelevant as the Court focused on what the law states).
2) The Judge agreed with the claimant. However, the result has mushroomed into a much more worrying situation for the nursing profession. They are:
a) An interim injunction restraining the Nursing Council from holding any further meetings and executing or implementing any decision of the Council. All functions of the Nursing Council of Trinidad and Tobago are now suspended pending final determination of this case and lifting of the injunction. Therefore, NURSING COUNCIL WILL NOT BE ABLE TO:
i. Register or enrol nursing personnel;
ii. Issue certificate and licences;
iii. Add to, and remove names from, the Registers and Rolls;
iv. Collect fees required to be paid under the Nursing Personnel Act;
v. Examine applicants as a prerequisite to initial registration;
vi. Set standards for education and practice of Nursing and Midwifery;
vii. Initiate the Electoral Process for the New Council (Which it had already re-started); etc.,
b) Even more of a concern, is that any decision of the Nursing Council (inclusive of the ones listed above) which were made and executed after April 14th, 2019 is also NULL, VOID AND OF NO EFFECT. This means every exam, every payment made to Nursing Council, every Nursing Personnel or Midwife who was licenced enrolled between April 14th, 2019 to present, is NULL, VOID AND OF NO EFFECT. This is the far bigger problem for TTRNA and the entire Nursing profession that we want persons to focus on as this is a devastating blow. How this will be treated with if the decision becomes permanent, will be a logistical nightmare.
c) Additionally, the rules used to manage the previously scheduled elections, were also called into question, as those rules were specific for elections held under the Nursing and Midwifery Act and has now become obsolete with the withdrawal of that Act.
Therefore, there are no rules existing than governs how the election is to be held for the current Nursing Personnel Act of 2014. This means, even the election of 2015, may not be valid if they were held past the six-month deadline (cited in sub-section 4 (a)(2) of the Act), the previous persons continued to hold office more than 1-year after the six (6) month deadline, and the election was conducted under the old rules which were defunct since the withdrawal of the Nursing and Midwifery Act.
In my opinion, whether the Council had the authority to change its President, four (4) months after the Election was due, for whatever justifiable reason or not, has now become the minor issue. It is of little significance now, since by simple reasoning, they ought not to have a President still in office in August 2019, if no election took place in April 2019. The above points now bring other issues into perspective. They include:
1) There is the very real possibility that the control of the Nursing Council will be for the first time in the history of its existence, temporally in full control of the Minister of Health, until the completion of a still to be decide electoral process. As only the Minister's appointees and the ex-officio member (Chief Nursing Officer) do not have to wait for the elections to function. Ironically, the Association had been asking the Minister to intervene in the problems of the Council since May 2019. However, he indicated that he is unable to do same as the Nursing Council is an 'autonomous body'.
2) The current Nursing Personnel Act is clearly deficient in several areas and needs substantial amendments. This validates TTRNA's 3-year call to the Ministry of Health for this Act to be modernize with robust input from stakeholders, which did not occur in 2014.
Whatever emanates hence forth by the Court, I will be comforted in the knowledge, that a free and fair electoral process is quickly charted and completed in the shortest possible time, to mitigate the fall out of this Court action that will undoubtedly and sadly impact thousands of Nurses and Midwives. The Judge has requested TTRNA and TTAM to be present at the next Court hearing, as he rightfully sees these institutions as the main stakeholders in the profession and must have an input into the eventual outcome of the Nursing Council. I encourage persons to come to the POS25 Supreme Court Hall of Justice at midday on Monday and hear first-hand what is will be the faith of your beloved profession.
Your faithful servant,