The case in which Østfold Hospital summoned four of its own employees to court took an unexpected turn on Tuesday morning.
At that time, Fredrikstad District Court held that hospital director Hege Gjessing did not have the authority to summon the employees, and that only the board has the opportunity to do so.
The case was therefore rejected before it got off to a proper start.
The decision led to discussions between the hospital’s lawyer Tarjei Thorkildsen and judge Torbjørn Fjeldstad.
Thorkildsen believed that the district court had a duty to give the hospital an opportunity to correct the formal error, so that the case could still be processed. He therefore tried to have the decision overturned.
But the court also rejected this unanimously. Østfold Hospital is now considering whether to appeal the ruling to the Court of Appeal.
The nurses’ lawyer Magnus Buflod believes the court had no choice but to dismiss the case.
– The reason is that the health trust has not acted with the right person before the court. Here, the general manager has filed a lawsuit, but it is the chairman of the board who will do it. The court had no other option but to dismiss the case, he says to NRK.
Required full time position
On Tuesday, the trial started, which four nurses at the neonatal intensive care unit at Østfold Hospital have dreaded: Meeting their own employer in court.
The nurses worked part-time, but demanded to have their positions expanded when a new nurse position was advertised in the spring of 2019. The employer believes they will have problems filling up the weekend shifts if the nurses are allowed to work full time.
Instead, the nurses were offered to fill their position by working in other departments. They refused.
Instead, they went to the Dispute Resolution Board, which upheld them. But instead of accepting this, the hospital wanted to go to court.
Lawyer Buflod tells NRK that the district court’s decision to dismiss the case on Tuesday morning means that the decision in the Dispute Resolution Board will stand.
– Yes, this has the effect that the decisions made are binding on the hospital.
What do you want to do next in the case now?
– We will pursue the demands that the employees have won with, namely the right to increase their positions at the health trust. We will ensure that the health trust complies with the decision made by the Dispute Tribunal.
At the same time, the four nurses have previously filed a counterclaim against Østfold Hospital. Fredrikstad District Court has chosen to postpone the processing of this part of the case until the new year.
In principle important
Hospital director Hege Gjessing has previously told NRK that she understands that the nurses experience the case as a great burden. She still believes it was necessary to go to court since the decision from the Dispute Resolution Board can not be appealed.
– This is a principle that will apply to all departments at all hospitals in Norway, says Gjessing.
Gjessing believes that in the final analysis it will cost the hospital “many hundreds of millions” if they lose and the case is set a precedent.
But precisely the fact that the case is of a principled nature for the hospital means that it is outside the daily operations that are in the hospital director’s job description, the court believes according to Fredriksstad Blad.