August Messenger 2018

Melissa Campbell CPSA


Play a role in the future of health care

College Council needs new members! Nominations open Aug. 31

If you want to experience physician leadership in a position where your medical expertise and unique perspective can positively impact health care in Alberta, then we have an opportunity for you.

College Council is looking for four physician members to join their ranks, for three-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

What does College Council do?

Comprised of physicians, members of the public, medical school deans and both medical student and resident observers, Council is the College’s governing body. Council meets four times a year to discuss pressing matters facing the public and the medical community, while setting the strategic policies that help the College fulfill its responsibility—to protect Albertans by ensuring high-quality medical care through effective, profession-led regulation.

Why join College Council?

Being on Council means playing an important role in the success of the College and the future of health care in Alberta. The profession of medicine is changing every day and this is your chance to be part of the evolution.

Nominations open on Friday, Aug. 31—watch your email and our website for more information.

Questions? Reach out to elections@cpsa.ab.ca.


College recruiting for leadership roles

Physician adjudicators needed for CRC and Hearing Tribunals

Are you an experienced physician with an interest in dispute resolution?

If so, the College invites you to consider a leadership role in profession-led regulation as a member of a Complaints Review Committee (CRC) or a Hearing Tribunal.

A CRC reviews dismissed complaints at the request of complainants, while a Hearing Tribunal considers evidence and arguments in adjudicating a charge of unprofessional conduct against a physician. Each is made up of three members, two physicians and at least one member from the public.

We promise an interesting, challenging, and very satisfying experience.

CRC or Hearing Tribunal positions are open to physicians of all specialties who are in good standing with the College. Experience serving on tribunals or committees, in formal administrative positions or assessing medical students, residents or physicians for practice readiness are valuable assets.

Expected time commitment is one day for a CRC meeting and one or two days for a Hearing Tribunal (rarely, multiple days), plus up to an additional 15 hours. The chair of a CRC or Hearing Tribunal prepares decision documents with the assistance of legal counsel. Honorarium and expenses are paid at College rates and training is provided.

For more information or to apply, contact Ms. Adele Gendron, Assistant to the Hearings Director, at 780-969-5015 or adele.gendron@cpsa.ab.ca. Please respond by Aug. 31, 2018.


Two Alberta physicians face CPSA Hearing Tribunals for separate offences

Calgary practitioner sanctioned for ethical breach

A College Hearing Tribunal found Dr. Joanne Tse, a general practitioner from Calgary, guilty of unprofessional conduct.

Background:

‘KW’ and ‘ST’ were discharged as patients of Dr. Tse after they raised concerns regarding aspects of their care. ST subsequently filed a complaint with the College against Dr. Tse, regarding a medical appointment between KW and Dr. Tse, the inappropriate storage of clinic records, inappropriate follow-up of laboratory results and inappropriate discharge from practice. The matter was investigated and with the permission of ST, an informal and educational resolution was sought with Dr. Tse. Dr. Tse agreed through her legal counsel to an informal resolution, including certain undertakings on the storage of clinic records to ensure availability to patients.

However, the Complaints Director was informed by ST that Dr. Tse, while agreeing to the resolution, had also initiated a defamation lawsuit against ST and KW in civil court, which was confirmed after an investigation. The Complaints Director decided to charge Dr. Tse with unprofessional conduct and proceed with a formal Hearing as per the Health Professions Act. The formal charge stated:

“[Dr. Tse] did inappropriately commence a defamation legal action against ST and KW on Oct. 7, 2017, based on the complaint made by ST to the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta (the “College”) regarding a medical appointment with [Dr. Tse] on Aug. 10, 2015, the confidentiality of patient records, the timeliness on follow up of lab test results and your discharge of ST and KW as your patients, which resulted in the College’s investigation.”

Order of the Hearing Tribunal:

Dr. Tse admitted to the allegation. The orders of the Hearing Tribunal included Dr. Tse's responsibility for the costs of the hearing ($36,188.28) and a two-week suspension of her practice permit.

The Hearing Tribunal specifically noted that statements made by ST in her complaint to the College were privileged and should not have been used for the purposes of civil litigation. The Tribunal also agreed that Dr. Tse's actions were inconsistent with the Code of Ethics and were specifically a breach of precept 46, which expects all physicians to recognize the privilege of self-regulation and exhibit the responsible behaviours that are seen to merit this privilege. Finally, the Tribunal saw the inappropriate effect civil actions could have if seen as acceptable retribution against complainants, impacting the ability of the College to protect the public from unskilled practice or unethical behaviour, which could lead to the loss of independent regulation of the profession.

Alberta physician fails to abide by practice conditions

A College Hearing Tribunal found Dr. Musbah Abouhamra (a gynecologist practising in Edmonton and Lloydminster) guilty of unprofessional conduct.

Background:

After a 2005 College investigation, Dr. Abouhamra signed an agreement in which he agreed not to perform any invasive procedures in an office-based setting. Subsequent monitoring by the College revealed that for 21 months, Dr. Abouhamra practised in breach of that condition. The specific charge at hearing stated:

"That between April 1, 2015 and Dec. 3, 2016 [Dr. Abouhamra] did perform invasive procedures on over 50 occasions, on patients seen by [Dr. Abouhamra] at the Bonnie Doon Medical Centre, contrary to the restriction on [Dr. Abouhamra's] practice set out in paragraph one of your undertaking to the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta dated Feb. 16, 2007 and the condition imposed on your practice permit." The charge was contested by Dr. Abouhamra.

Dr. Abouhamra had been compliant with the practice condition until January 2015, when his privileges at the Lloydminster Hospital were suspended by the relevant health authority in Saskatchewan. Dr. Abouhamra subsequently began work at the Bonnie Doon Medical Centre in Edmonton (an office-based setting), but did not seek formal permission from the College Registrar to perform invasive procedures at that clinic, as he was of the opinion the condition applied only to his practice in Lloydminster.

Several witnesses were called, including the Senior Medical Advisor who had inspected Dr. Abouhamra's office as part of the original complaint about the clinic’s sterilization process. In an office-based setting, all portions of the sterilization process, which ensures safety for patients, are the physician’s responsibility. Dr. Abouhamra had shown a lack of attention to this process, which was why the condition was put in place. The condition had not restricted his performance of invasive procedures within the Lloydminster Hospital, where the appropriate sterilization of instruments is managed by the health authority.

Dr. Abouhamra testified in his own defence, stating that he had contacted the College at various times requesting his practice condition be rescinded. The College investigator found no record of such requests. After hearing the evidence, the Hearing Tribunal found Dr. Abouhamra guilty of unprofessional conduct in his failure to abide by his practice condition.

Order of the Hearing Tribunal:

The Tribunal directed Dr. Abouhamra to pay 50% of the investigation and hearing costs ($24,146.85), and ordered his practice permit suspended for seven days. As Dr. Abouhamra voluntarily withdrew from practice for approximately two months in spring 2018, the Hearing Tribunal considers his suspension served. Dr. Abouhamra is appealing the Hearing decision to College Council. The appeal date has not yet been set.

The primary concern in this matter is that a regulated member must adhere to any practice restrictions or conditions agreed to with the College. Dr. Abouhamra's understanding of his practice condition was incorrect and a change in practice or practice patterns that may be incongruent with a previous agreement should be reviewed carefully with the College and the Canadian Medical Protective Association (or similar legal counsel).


Dr. Zafrina’s Poonja’s commitment to wellness is literally award-winning

As many transformative journeys do, Dr. Zafrina Poonja’s dedication to physician health began on a very personal note.

When a family member became ill, Dr. Poonja, a resident in Emergency Medicine, struggled with juggling all of her responsibilities. She worked hard to balance support for her family with her shifts at the hospital, while also staying on top of her academic assignments. But before long, she began to feel the strain. Taking on too much was negatively affecting her health and overall wellness.

“Even with a strong support system, I found it difficult to manage all of my commitments,” shared Dr. Poonja. “Which made me think about other residents, who have felt the same but didn’t have the same social supports that I do. Where do they go for help?”

Inspired, Dr. Poonja created the blog series How I Stay Healthy in EM, on the website Academic Life in Emergency Medicine (ALiEM).

“From there, my interest in physician health began to grow.”

Dr. Jim Canniff (left), representing the CPSA’s Physician Health Monitoring Program, and David Dry (right), son of Dr. Marnie Hinton, present Dr. Poonja with the Dr. Marnie Hinton Award for Resident Physician Health.

Since then, Dr. Poonja has become a member of ALiEM’s Wellness Think Tank, a North American initiative that brings emergency medical practitioners together to collaborate and share ideas on maintaining health and wellness. She is also a member of a wellness special interest group with the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, is a resiliency trainer with Resident Doctors of Canada and spearheads wellness initiatives and activities within her residency program at the University of Alberta.

“It’s so important for physicians to have a supportive work environment,” says Dr. Poonja. “Looking out for your colleagues, having their backs and offering any extra support when they need it is invaluable towards maintaining wellness and avoiding burnout.”

In recognition of her passion and commitment, Dr. Poonja was honored at an awards ceremony in June, with the University of Alberta’s inaugural Dr. Marnie Hinton Award for Resident Physician Health. Currently prepping for her fifth-year exams, Dr. Poonja is looking forward to life after residency.

“I’m not sure what the future brings,” she says. “But I definitely know my wellness work will be a part of it.”

Dr. Marnie Hinton, a long-time Alberta physician, dedicated her life to physician health. For nearly 25 years, she worked with doctors struggling with addiction through the CPSA’s Physicians Aftercare Program, sharing her wisdom about healthy sobriety and even taking members to recovery meetings in her off hours. The Dr. Marnie Hinton Award for Resident Physician Health, jointly funded by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta and the Alberta Medical Association’s Physician and Family Support Program, is awarded annually to a medical resident with a demonstrated interest in physician health.