More than 200 people have signed an online petition urging Brighton hospital bosses to reinstate the sacked race equality champion at an NHS trust.
Colleagues set up the petition to “Reinstate Vivienne” after she was dismissed on Wednesday (28 June).
Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé joined the trust 34 years ago and worked as a principal clinical biochemist for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
More recently she became associate director of transformation, charged with helping the trust deal with its poor record of race relations.
The independent government regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), criticised race relations at the hospital when it placed the trust in special measures, having rated it inadequate.
Not only has the issue affected staffing and recruitment and retention but evidence to employment tribunals has suggested that patient care has been adversely affected too.
Dr Lyfar-Cissé is one of a number of BME (black and ethnic minority) staff to have won tribunal cases against the trust.
On Thursday (29 June) a High Court judge handed down a critical employment appeal tribunal judgment in a case brought against the trust.
The case involved a black surgeon, James Akinmunwi, who had previously been the subject of racial discrimination and who was subsequently unfairly dismissed, Judge Elisabeth Laing found.
Dr Lyfar-Cissé, who lives in Hove, declined to comment about her case but said that she was heartened by the support shown by colleagues.
The petition on change.org is addressed to the new chairman of the BSUH board Mike Viggers.
It says: “We call upon the trust board to reinstate Dr Lyfar-Cissé with immediate effect.
“Dr Lyfar-Cissé was dismissed from her role by an unjust process which would prevent her from continuing to highlight the institutional racism in the organisation and which is a clear case of victimisation.”
The petition says that Dr Lyfar-Cissé was dismissed under the “fit and proper persons” regulations.
The law states that the regulations apply only to board directors or those exercising similar responsibilities. The trust’s own policy echoes this.
The case looks likely to end up at a tribunal. If the trust were to win, Dr Lyfar-Cissé would be the most junior person ever to have been removed under the regulations.
But the long-serving clinician is regarded as something of an expert in discrimination law. And not only does she chair the BME Network at BSUH but she also chairs the national NHS BME Network.
One of those supporting the petition, who declined to be named, citing a bullying culture at the trust, said: “BSUH has so many BME staff that it makes sense to try to get along.
“But time and again, tribunal judgments and other proceedings have highlighted poor leadership, bad management and, frankly, attitudes that have no place in 21st century Britain.
“The CQC came back to the trust recently. I would be genuinely surprised if they found much by way of improvement when it comes to the treatment of BME staff.
“Even though the new board, like the old board, is white only, it is made up of intelligent people. They now need to show that they have the right calibre to lead our hospital and our NHS trust in a diverse country in this day and age.
“If the treatment of Vivienne Lyfar- Cissé is anything to go by, then those at the top need to reconsider their position so that more suitable leaders can take their place.”