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Dr. Wynand Wessels sanctioned for unprofessional conduct
After being found guilty of unprofessional conduct for hanging a rope in the perceived shape of a noose on an operating room door, Dr. Wynand Wessels was suspended from medical practice for four months by a CPSA hearing tribunal.
During Dr. Wessels’ merits hearing in 2020, the hearing tribunal was presented with an exhibit book, along with Dr. Wessels’ admission that he was guilty of unprofessional conduct. While the tribunal felt there was insufficient evidence to prove Dr. Wessels’ actions were motivated by racism, they found he did intend to send a threatening message or warning to one or more individuals.
During the sanction phase of the hearing (which was contested), the tribunal heard from 16 witnesses, a number of whom spoke about a high level of conflict between members of the orthopedic department at Grande Prairie’s Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. While some described other individuals as being responsible for contributing to the conflict, all acknowledged it was improper to hang a noose on a door and they would not do it themselves. The hearing tribunal also heard from witnesses whose description of events was included in the exhibit book put into evidence during the merits hearing in 2020, which included how the noose hung on the door was perceived and how it affected them. Additionally, the hearing tribunal heard from an expert on workplace conflict and harassment.
The tribunal found Dr. Wessels’ actions to be highly unprofessional and in breach of CPSA’s Code of Ethics as he failed to treat his colleagues with dignity and respect. In addition to the four-month suspension (with two weeks remitted for an unpaid leave requested by AHS), Dr. Wessels is also responsible for 75 per cent of the costs of the merits hearing, the sanction hearing and the investigation (totalling $89,536.28).
CPSA Registrar Dr. Scott McLeod commented on this decision publicly, saying “Whether Dr. Wessels’ intent was racist or not, CPSA believes the evidence presented demonstrated his actions were perceived by colleagues as racially-motivated and left a negative impact on many Albertans and the profession. CPSA wants Albertans and physicians to know we take allegations like these very seriously and are committed to using this opportunity to learn and continue to improve the work that we do.”
Dr. Bradley Stewart sanctioned for unprofessional conduct
Dr. Bradley Stewart, a neurologist from Edmonton, was sanctioned for unprofessional conduct after failing to abide by an undertaking he signed with CPSA in 2016.
In response to a complaint received in 2016, CPSA placed a condition on Dr. Stewart’s practice permit, requiring he have a chaperone present when seeing female patients. It was alleged in 2020 that Dr. Stewart did not follow this condition and had seen three or more female patients without a chaperone. Dr. Stewart subsequently withdrew from practice in September 2020 until January 2021, at which time he was permitted to see male patients only.
At his hearing in October 2021, Dr. Stewart did not contest the charges of unprofessional conduct. The hearing tribunal accepted a joint submission on sanction, which includes the suspension of Dr. Stewart’s practice permit for six months (with three months considered served from when he voluntarily withdrew from practice and the remaining three months held in abeyance pending compliance with the remaining sanctions). He must also have a CPSA-approved chaperone who is a regulated health professional in attendance for all encounters with female patients, is responsible for 100 per cent of the costs of the investigation and hearing (totalling $38,538.18) and must, at his own expense, undergo an assessment by a forensic psychiatrist to assess his risk of re-offending. The tribunal’s full order can be reviewed on CPSA’s website.
When a physician fails to comply with an undertaking from CPSA, it harms the integrity of the medical profession and can result in a loss of confidence from Albertans in our ability to meet our mandate. The sanctions imposed in this case, which include a more robust chaperone condition, the requirement for an assessment to determine risk and the ability to alter the terms of the sanction order if needed, demonstrate CPSA’s ability to protect the public and ensure high-quality care from the profession.
Dr. Jacquie McCubbin sanctioned by CPSA hearing tribunal
Dr. Jacquie McCubbin, an obstetrician and gynecologist from Edmonton, was found guilty of unprofessional conduct and sanctioned by a CPSA hearing tribunal for failing to provide the minimum level of expected care to a patient and the patient’s unborn child.
Dr. McCubbin acknowledged the allegation and after reviewing the evidence, the tribunal accepted her admission of unprofessional conduct along with a joint submission on sanction, and ordered the following:
- Dr. McCubbin shall receive a reprimand.
- Dr. McCubbin must take and complete two professional development courses by June 30, 2022, at her own expense, and provide proof of completion of these courses to CPSA’s Complaints Director by Sept. 1, 2022:
- TeamSTEPPS Canada Essentials
- The Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School online modules on Quality Improvement and Patient Safety
- Dr. McCubbin is also responsible for two-thirds of the costs of the investigation and hearing (final amount to be determined), up to a maximum of $15,000.
The tribunal felt a reprimand, educational requirements and a financial penalty were appropriate deterrents as Dr. McCubbin has expressed sincere remorse for what occurred and has engaged in personal self-reflection to improve her practice. She has also participated in processes at the hospital to address the systemic factors that contributed to this outcome.
Dr. Regan Taylor sanctioned for boundary violation
Dr. Regan Taylor, a family physician from Calgary, was found guilty of unprofessional conduct by a CPSA hearing tribunal for having a sexual encounter with a patient.
In 2016, Dr. Taylor provided episodic care to a patient who he then met with socially several weeks later, leading to a sexual encounter. This conduct violates CPSA’s standard of practice on sexual boundary violations in place at that time, which stipulates that a physician cannot have any sexual or intimate involvement with a former patient for a period of time after care was last provided, due to the inherent power imbalance between a physician and their patients.
Dr. Taylor admitted to the charges and the hearing tribunal accepted a joint submission on sanction, which includes a six-month suspension (with four months served and two months held in abeyance pending fulfillment of the tribunal’s remaining orders), a boundaries course, and an assessment to determine what led to Dr. Taylor’s conduct, the risk of it occurring again and what, if any, therapy or limits on his practice are required. Dr. Taylor is also responsible for 75 per cent of the total costs of the hearing and investigation (total still to be determined). The tribunal’s decision can be reviewed in full on CPSA’s website.
Patients are often at their most vulnerable when seeking health care and maintaining professional boundaries is a critical part of the physician-patient relationship. It is vitally important for all physicians and physician assistants to fully understand expectations under CPSA’s standards on boundary violations (sexual and personal). If an incident such as this were to take place after April 1, 2019, and the implementation of An Act to Protect Patients, it could meet the definition of sexual abuse under the Health Professions Act and lead to cancellation of the physician’s practice permit.
Dr. Mohammed A.R. Sayeed sanctioned for relationship with patient
Lloydminster family physician Dr. Mohammed A.R. Sayeed was sanctioned for unprofessional conduct by a CPSA hearing tribunal, for having a sexual relationship with a patient and failing to report it to CPSA.
In 2016, Dr. Sayeed engaged in a sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient and failed to report the relationship to CPSA. Dr. Sayeed practises in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, and the patient filed a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS), who notified CPSA. A condition was placed on Dr. Sayeed’s CPSA practice permit in June of 2018, requiring a chaperone be present for every interaction with female patients, caregivers, family members and guardians. In December 2018, Dr. Sayeed agreed to withdraw from practice in Alberta while awaiting investigation of the CPSA complaint.
A CPSA hearing tribunal found Dr. Sayeed guilty of unprofessional conduct and accepted a joint submission on sanction, which includes a 19-month suspension (with credit for the time Dr. Sayeed has been out of practice since 2018), participation in CPSA’s Physician Health Monitoring Program, a $5,000 fine plus two-thirds of the investigation and hearing costs, and practice conditions consistent with those on his permit in Saskatchewan. The tribunal’s decision on sanction can be reviewed in full on CPSA’s website.
A sexual relationship with a vulnerable patient is a violation of the power imbalance that exists in every physician-patient relationship and an extreme abuse of a patient’s trust. Due to when this boundary violation occurred, mandatory sanctions under An Act to Protect Patients did not apply. However, the tribunal recognized how egregious this type of conduct is and how harmful it is to patients, warranting a firm and consistent sanction that sends a strong message to the profession.