Docs Pan Discipline Process

Two Halifax doctors facing internal complaints about their conduct have been in professional limbo since the allegations were made more than two years ago.

And Doctors Nova Scotia wants Capital District Health Authority investigations and decisions in disciplinary manners speeded up considerably.

“The current bylaws have created a process that is unfair and causes unnecessary delays for the physicians involved,” the organization, which represents the province’s 700 or so doctors, said Thursday.

The cases drag on and that causes a problem for patients as well as doctors and the health authority, said Doug Clarke, chief executive officer of Doctors Nova Scotia.

“We’ve actually discussed the problems with Capital health and the Health Department over the past few months,” he said.

“There’s a formal meeting scheduled for mid-December to work to revamp the bylaws.”
Halifax cardiologist Gabrielle Horne and oncologist Michael Goodyear are battling allegations before a disciplinary committee. Details of the complaints have not been made public.

Both doctors, fed up with the lengthy disciplinary process, took their cases to Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Dr. Goodyear’s application for restoration of his medical privileges at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and his wages was rejected by the court last month, while a decision in Dr. Horne’s case is still pending.

On Wednesday, Capital health spokesman Dr. Andrew Padmos strongly defended the disciplinary process and said delays in Dr. Horne’s case were agreed on by both parties.

But her lawyer, denied Thursday that his client ever agreed to the process that has dragged on since October 2002, causing her to lose access to patients at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and effectively shutting down an important heart research project.

“We’re in the third year of an investigation. No one in their right mind could say that we consented to a three- or more (year) . . . investigation, and it is not over yet. You can do a murder trial in 1 1/2 to two years.”

Mr. Clarke was also surprised that anyone speaking for the health authority was unaware that changes to the disciplinary process were in the works.

“One of the things that was surprising about Dr. Padmos’s comments was that the Department of Health, Doctors Nova Scotia and the Capital district are all in full agreement that there need to be corrections,” he said.

“Everyone realizes that they are not working well . . . that these bylaws do not do what they are meant to do. The Capital district under their CEO is in full agreement with that.”

Health authority Geoff Wilson said Thursday doctors in the province were asked to give feedback on the bylaws earlier this year.

It is important to deal with the problems in order to attract qualified doctors to the area, Mr. Clarke said.

“I think any time you are trying to recruit physicians, you have to have an environment they want to come and work in, and something like this could have an impact on their thinking about the environment.”

The current process can also damage working relationships between medical staff, he said.

“It leaves images in people’s minds and affects the way they interact with each other.”

And, tragically, when doctors aren’t allowed access to their patients or to conduct research for unnecessarily lengthy periods, it is the patients who suffer the most, Mr. Clarke said.

“If these doctors aren’t working, patients aren’t going to be seen.”

He also said an agreement signed by Dr. Horne and Don Ford, the health authority’s chief executive officer, in June 2003, allowing her to resume full duties should have been honoured. The authority later said its CEO did not have the authority to settle the dispute.

“We have make sure . . . that any agreement that is reached in accordance with the bylaws is honoured, and that’s something (else) we will be discussing at the upcoming meeting,” Mr. Clarke said.

He said he hopes changes will take place in a “a short time.”

“As I said, we have been in discussions for months. We have to make this fair for all the parties involved.”

Dr. Judy Kazimirski is expected to represent the health authority at the upcoming meeting, he said.

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