Ear nose and throat specialist Dr Irving Pascal
Ear nose and throat specialist Dr Irving Pascal

Dr. Irving "Eipigh" Pascal, the ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist who could no longer perform surgery at the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH) has filed a lawsuit against Health Minister Dr. Kenneth Darroux.

After attaining the official retirement age in November 2018, Dr. Pascal, Dominica's sole ENT specialist, was booted out of the system and despite writing to the government expressing his interest in continuing operating at the PMH, a compromise is yet to be reached.

"I have colleagues who after retirement had contracts that allowed them to continue to use the surgical facilities at PMH. Also Dr. Kelsick who has never worked in Dominica before he retired was allowed access to PMH. Friends (who are) doctors who after retirement have contracts and are still using the hospital and theatre," Dr. Pascal said. "I had a legitimate expectation to be able to use the Operating Theatre to operate on patients who has put their trust in my capacities of using the theatre and so I have patients booked for surgery, I can't tell them when they can be admitted to PMH for surgery. It is crazy. I have people booked to have surgery. All I know I can't tell them to come to the hospital to operate on them," he said. Dr. Pascal added: "I am a surgical specialist and being unable to operate on patients' ears, noses or throats is an attack on my ability to maintain my professional expertise, medical professional and a surgeon; it means I can't practice since half of my expertise is surgical because I operate on people's noses, ears and throats; so if I can't do that, then where am I?"

The Government of Dominica recently brought in an ENT specialist from Cuba to replace Dr. Pascal.

The ENT specialist argues that he is being victimized because he has been vocal about his concerns of Dominica's health system.

"Besides the victimization, it's also a human rights issue where patients are being denied access to health care. Patients think I am the one holding back on their surgery, but that is not the case. I have tried everything to have the situation remedied with no avail and so I was forced to seek redress in the court," he said.

He continued: "The situation is not only injurious to me but also to patients. I can't even operate at the PMH on a patient in an emergency and nothing has been done. I have had no real movements from the ministry until I took the matter to court". Meantime, Health Minister, Dr. Kenneth Darroux speaking at a recently held press conference said that two esteemed and long-serving doctors, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Dr. Hazel Shillingford-Ricketts and ENT Specialist, Dr. Pascal are still needed in the health service.

"Now they have done what they have to do to be officially and legally retired …we can now begin the discussion," Dr. Darroux said.

The process is already advanced, Dr. Darroux said.

"Because they would have already submitted proposals to the ministry of health for re-engagement," he said.

But, Dr. Pascal said, it is now six months and he has not had a response from the Ministry of Health on his status and so he was forced to go to court.

"The matter is set for trial in September 2019; however, the court has asked both parties to seek a speedy resolution in the matter. I am set and ready to resume work on mutually agreed terms and conditions but the Ministry has the final say. They can just call me and get it resolved," he said. "It is affecting me as a surgeon. I have not operated now for six months in Dominica. I have patients to deal with and I have to be referring them to overseas. It is a level of injustice and incompetence that is just unacceptable, just not right."