Nurse Margaret Gilbert has been served with a five page, heavy-handed 'show cause' from her State Government employers.
Nurse Margaret Gilbert has been served with a five page, heavy-handed 'show cause' from her State Government employers.

Whistleblower nurse threatened with sack

A BRISBANE nurse with 40 years exemplary service has been threatened with the sack after exposing flaws in the training of student nurses to The Sunday Mail.

In a five page, heavy-handed "show cause" email from Metro North Hospital and Health Services Margaret Gilbert, a duty managerat Prince Charles Hospital, was told that she may have breached media regulations by making comment about the dropping standards of bachelor nursing degrees and the decline of practical skills in student nurses.

The email alleges seven breaches by Ms Gilbert and states that if it is decided that disciplinary action should be taken shefaced, losing her job, demotion, reprimand, redeployment or a monetary penalty.

The email from Queensland Health has sparked unprecedented action by the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland. Thenurse is a union delegate. On Friday the NPAQ commenced proceedings with the Industrial Relations Commission and will be heard on Monday.

Prince Charles Hospital’s duty nurse manager Margaret Gilbert. Picture: Annette Dew
Prince Charles Hospital’s duty nurse manager Margaret Gilbert. Picture: Annette Dew

The NPAQ claims the media gag order and the threat of serious disciplinary action on Ms Gilbert is a breach of human rights.

It is believed this will be the first time the new Human Rights Act introduced on January 1 will be tested.

"The fundamental role of a nurse is to be an advocate for their patients. If Margaret is denied the chance to speak out on the standard of nursing and the impact on patients then other nurses will be scared to speak for fear of being sacked," NPAQpresident Phill Tsingos said.

"As a union delegate Margaret was duty bound to raise issues publicly about matters such as low levels of education and skillby nursing graduates," he said.

Queensland Health alleges that Ms Gilbert did cause or could have caused the public to lose confidencein the nursing capability at the Prince Charles Hospital and that her comments in the November 24 edition of The Sunday Mail did or could have deterred potential candidates from joining the nursing profession.

It is also alleged that she did or may have caused damage to the relationship between Metro North and partner universities.

The freedom of speech case could have ramifications for all public servants who are scared to speak out about official wrongdoings, the union claims.

"We are going to throw everything at this case," Mr Tsingos said.