Top doctor blames “toxic work environment” for decision  to quit

January 14, 2019

A top consultant anaesthetist from Newry has blamed a “toxic work environment”, poor managerial culture and increasing bureaucracy at the city’s Daisy Hill Hospital for his decision to quit his post.

Award winning medic, Dr Peter Maguire, intends to continue practicing in the Republic of Ireland in a Co Monaghan hospital, describing his current work there as, an “uplifting experience where things run like clockwork” – a stark contrast he says to the “toxic environment” and bureaucratic constraints at Daisy Hill, where he has been based for the last 16 years.

Dr Maguire, a fluent Irish speaker who runs a bi-lingual clinic for patients in the south, also told the Irish News that he felt the collapse of Stormont was violating his nationalist identity and that fears over Brexit also factored in his decision to leave. 

In the scathing interview, the high-profile consultant claimed the managerial culture at Daisy Hill is so bad that he believes a special measures “hit squad” should be called in.  He said the current climate at the hospital has left staff feeling undervalued and led him to question the role he once loved. 

Hitting out at the “incredible amount of red tape” which he says results in less time to help patients and carry out his job, Dr Maguire says his role has became increasingly difficult due to the management culture and bureaucratic restrictions at the hospital.  According to the leading anaesthetist, modern anaesthetic drugs which he said consultants have to “beg” for in the north are more accessible in the Republic.

Dr Maguire revealed that his tipping point came last October, after his first ever request for emergency leave – to care for his elderly mother following surgery  – was refused. The medic – who is an only child – said “everything fell apart” for him when his request was refused.   He took sick leave and with time to consider his future, he decided that it was time for him to go and wrote to Southern health trust chiefs about his planned retirement, giving five months notice with an end date of March 31 this year.

Despite the hospital having a shortage of consultant anaesthetists and relying on expensive locum cover, the top doctor says senior bosses never contacted him about his decision to quit.  

“The trust should be making a charm offensive to retain staff but I never heard anything back since handing in my notice,” he said.

“I am the most experienced member of the team and I know we need three extra people in our department.”

Dr Maguire said he has no plans to leave his profession – just the north’s health service.

“Not everything is perfect in the south but when I drove across the border to Monaghan one day last month, it was the most uplifting experience,” he said. 

“I knew I had seen the patients in a pre-op clinic beforehand and I knew they will be fit for surgery. I knew I was going in to do a good day’s work to change a number of people’s lives. I knew it was going to run like clockwork and it did. I felt so valued, so appreciated.”   

Reiterating his decision to “get away from this awful, toxic environment”, the Newry doctor added, “If anyone asks me about applying for a job here, I would highly recommend they don’t.”

“I will go and make my life my own. I will continue with service and teach young doctors… I am going to keep doing good.”

In response to the consultant’s claims, a spokesperson for the Trust said,

“Dr Maguire’s opinion piece in the Irish News is clearly very disappointing for the many staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure that Daisy Hill is secured as an acute hospital serving the local community.”

Thanking him for his service and wishing him well for the future the Trust representative added, “The Trust is committed to the Pathfinder process. So far this has secured the Emergency Department 24 hour opening, a new Direct Assessment Unit, medical and nursing recruitment and additional funding – £6.4m announced by the Department of Health.

“The success of Pathfinder is down to staff working alongside the local community, and is now being used as a model elsewhere in Northern Ireland. We look forward to a continued positive engagement with those who are committed to the future of Daisy Hill Hospital.”

Campaign group, Save Our Emergency Department, who have worked on the Pathfinder Project to deliver sustainable acute and emergency care in the Newry and Mourne area, said their views on the current status at the hospital differed from Dr Maguire’s.

A spokesperson for the group said they have worked closely with staff “to push for progress and make sure the Pathfinder process reflects their concerns and works to address them.”

“The public along with staff and patients have positively stepped in where politics has been stagnant/chaotic in both the shadow of Brexit and the stalemate at Stormont. The success of Pathfinder model is now being rolled out in other Trusts here.

“We welcome any staff who want to help us along in the push for progress.”