Physician Found Not Guilty By Hearing Tribunal
Dr. Craig Hodgson, a Family Physician from Whitecourt, was found not guilty of unprofessional conduct after appearing before a CPSA Hearing Tribunal.
Dr. Hodgson was accused of accessing a patient’s information in Alberta Netcare without first obtaining consent from the patient. According to an agreed statement of facts, the patient in question last received care from Dr. Hodgson in 2011 and was still listed in Dr. Hodgson’s Electronic Medical Record (EMR). The Netcare log showed the patient’s information was accessed momentarily in 2016. Dr. Hodgson had no recollection of this and believed the patient’s Netcare was accessed by mistake.
The Tribunal was advised the complainant in this matter previously filed a similar complaint regarding Netcare access against another physician. In that matter, the complaint was dismissed by the Complaints Director but on appeal, a Complaint Review Committee directed the matter to a hearing. Mindful that this matter would likely follow a similar direction, CPSA and Dr. Hodgson agreed to present the facts of the complaint to a Tribunal for final adjudication.
The Hearing Tribunal reviewed all the evidence presented and determined the brief access to the file was unintentional. As such, the Hearing Tribunal found insufficient evidence of unprofessional conduct and dismissed the charge against Dr. Hodgson. CPSA did not appeal the finding and there were no costs payable by Dr. Hodgson.
Given the ease in which patient records can be accessed, it is very important Albertans feel confident that their privacy will be protected and their information not misused by their physician. In this case, the unauthorized access was found to be an unintentional and understandable act of human error. The patient’s personal health information was not shared or exploited in any way and there was no harm to the patient or the public. This decision confirms and follows precedent* from previous cases, in which an honest mistake by a physician may not necessarily meet the definition of unprofessional conduct.
Dr. Barry Allen Lycka Sanctioned For Inappropriate Patient Relationship
Edmonton Dermatologist Dr. Barry Allen Lycka (also known as Dr. Allen Lycka) was sanctioned by a CPSA Hearing Tribunal for unprofessional conduct after he engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient between 2014 and 2017 and failed to create clinical records for the care provided to that patient.
Dr. Lycka made no contest against the allegations to avoid the distress of a contested hearing and therefore made no admission of unprofessional conduct. While he acknowledged the relationship in question took place, Dr. Lycka claimed it ended before he became the patient’s physician. However, the Hearing Tribunal felt there was sufficient evidence to prove the sexual relationship in fact continued long after the physician-patient relationship began, resulting in a clear boundary violation. They also found the evidence demonstrated Dr. Lycka failed to create and store appropriate documents for prescriptions he gave to the complainant.
The Tribunal concluded the allegations against Dr. Lycka’s conduct were proven on a balance of probabilities and his behaviour represented unprofessional conduct under the Health Professions Act. The Tribunal ordered the following sanctions:
- Although Dr. Lycka has withdrawn from practice for health reasons, any return to practice (if possible) will require him to serve a 12-month suspension, during which time he must complete a Professionalism and Boundaries course.
- On return to practice and following the suspension, Dr. Lycka must enter into an After Care Agreement with CPSA for at least five years, or until he retires from practice.
- Dr. Lycka must pay 100 per cent of the investigation and the hearing costs, totalling $29,229.95, and is responsible for both the costs of the Boundaries course and any ongoing monitoring or treatment under the After Care Agreement.
The importance of physicians maintaining appropriate boundaries with their patients cannot be overstated. Violations must be scrutinized even in the case where a physician has withdrawn from practice. As the boundary violation and complaint submission in this case occurred before An Act to Protect Patients took effect, sanctions under that legislation did not apply. In delivering their decision, the Hearing Tribunal recognized that had this behaviour come to the attention of CPSA on or after April 1, 2019, Dr. Lycka’s practice permit would have been subject to permanent cancellation.
Family Physician Suspended After Admission Of Unprofessional Conduct
Dr. Adriaan Kriel, a Family Physician from Medicine Hat with an interest in cosmetic procedures, admitted to unprofessional conduct and was suspended by a CPSA Hearing Tribunal.
In 2005, Dr. Kriel provided written confirmation to CPSA that he would not perform either cosmetic blepharoplasties (eyelid revision surgery) or any procedures requiring sedation. Despite this written confirmation, he continued to perform these procedures (falsely claiming otherwise on his CPSA Renewal Information Form) in his clinic, which was not an accredited, non-hospital surgical facility (NHSF) — the only non-hospital facility type where such procedures would be allowed. Dr. Kriel was also alleged to have demonstrated a lack of skill and judgment in the performance of blepharoplasty on one patient and liposuction on another. He also failed to appropriately address complications suffered by each of his patients.
Dr. Kriel admitted to his unprofessional conduct and made a joint submission with CPSA on sanction. The Tribunal suspended Dr. Kriel from practice for 12 months, ordered him to sign an undertaking confirming he will not perform any procedures that must be provided in an accredited NHSF and made him responsible for the full cost of the investigation and hearing (totalling $19,252.30).
While Dr. Kriel admitted to his actions and accepted full responsibility, preventing his patients from having to go through a lengthy hearing process, it is very important this type of unacceptable behaviour be deterred. A 12-month suspension is a sanction reserved for severe situations and a sign to both Albertans and the medical profession that similar behaviour will not be tolerated.
Edmonton Physician Sanctioned For Failing To Respond To CPSA
Dr. Kevin Mowbrey of Edmonton was sanctioned by a CPSA Hearing Tribunal after he was found guilty of unprofessional conduct earlier this year.
Dr. Mowbrey failed to respond to multiple inquiries from CPSA (both emailed and mailed correspondence) about a complaint. After Dr. Mowbrey’s admission to the charges against him, the Hearing Tribunal found him guilty of unprofessional conduct.
Before reconvening to decide Dr. Mowbrey’s sanction, the Hearing Tribunal asked both parties for written recommendations on sanction. CPSA’s Complaints Director submitted recommendations as requested, but Dr. Mowbrey did not, and failed to respond to repeated requests to submit information to inform a sanction decision. The Hearing Tribunal subsequently ordered Dr. Mowbrey to complete a fitness-to-practice assessment and directed him to respond to CPSA within 30 days about the original complaint or face a $500 fine. He is also responsible for the full costs of the investigation and hearing (totaling $29,599.45), payable within 60 days from the date on the decision.
Dr. Mowbrey’s conduct conflicted with a health provider’s duty to cooperate with the regulator under the Health Professions Act and was clearly unprofessional. While Dr. Mowbrey failed to submit his recommendations on sanction (in keeping with the allegations proven against him) and did not attend the hearing, the Tribunal was satisfied that he did receive the written request to do so and was aware of the proceedings. As such, the Tribunal felt determining sanction as planned was appropriate.
Physician Sanctioned After Inappropriate Relationship With Patient
Dr. John Slanina, a General Practitioner from Sherwood Park, was sanctioned by a CPSA Hearing Tribunal after he was previously found guilty of unprofessional conduct.
After a contested hearing in early 2020, Dr. Slanina was found guilty of unprofessional conduct for providing medical care to his then-common-law partner, failing to disclose this relationship to CPSA and failing to keep proper records documenting that care. While the Canadian Medical Association’s Code of Ethics* allows physicians to provide medical care to family members for minor conditions and in emergency situations, Dr. Slanina issued prescriptions and ordered tests for his partner that did not conform to those situations, thereby establishing a physician-patient relationship.
The Tribunal also found Dr. Slanina guilty of unprofessional conduct for initiating a civil lawsuit against the complainant, his former partner. This was seen as retaliation for the complaint submitted to CPSA.
The Hearing Tribunal suspended Dr. Slanina’s practice permit for 12 months, with six months to be served and the remaining time deferred only if Dr. Slanina completed a course on Ethics and Boundaries. Dr. Slanina is also responsible for two-thirds of the total investigation and hearing costs, totalling $39,478.56.
While the relationship between Dr. Slanina and his then-common-law partner predated the care provided, given the imbalance of power it is always inappropriate for a physician to have a personal relationship with a patient. The Hearing Tribunal felt Dr. Slanina’s actions harmed the integrity of the medical community and required a significant penalty.
* This case fell under the 2005 version of the Code of Ethics. Similar language can be found in the current version, enacted in 2018.
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