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Question Period (24 May 2005)

Question Period

From Hansard - 24 May 2005

To view this section on video, click here, and start play at 33:30.

Notification of Psychiatristís Patients
Mr. McMorris: ó Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, three months ago today, February 24, the Minister of Health found out that patients in the Weyburn and area who are suffering from some mental illness issues had been seeing a phoney psychiatrist, a psychiatrist that had nothing but bogus credentials. What actions did the Minister of Health take at that time?

Hon. Mr. Nilson: ó Well, Mr. Speaker, the opposition says one thing and the facts say another. This particular, this particular individual thatís involved has been a certified psychiatrist in a number of places across the world. But he . . . And his credentials were such that he was a practising psychiatrist for a number of years. But he was involved with some fraud around research that he was doing, and his credentials were taken away.

Mr. Speaker, the process that went through with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, they spent a long period of time going over the particular credentials. What they didnít pick up was the fact that he had been subsequently suspended and removed from the field.

Mr. McMorris: ó Mr. Speaker, this psychiatrist that weíre talking about had been found with fraudulent activities in many other countries and other provinces already, Mr. Speaker. Clearly the minister should have taken steps immediately to notify patients, should have notified patients not just the fact that this psychiatrist had been released of his duties but the reason why he had been released of his duties, Mr. Speaker.

This psychiatrist had been, over the last few months, in the Weyburn and area misleading patients. He had the ability to prescribe medication and drugs for patients suffering from some mental illness issues.

But he choose to do nothing, Mr. Speaker. Why would he put people in the Weyburn and area in jeopardy defending a psychiatrist of this nature?

Hon. Mr. Nilson: ó Mr. Speaker, once again the opposition says one thing and the facts are another. This particular individual was identified as having no longer qualifying clinical credentials on February 15. And immediately the Sun Country Health Region took the steps to make sure that patient safety was not compromised in any way. Another psychiatrist was given all of the files that this particular doctor had used, and he went through and made sure that all of the kinds of treatments that had been done had been followed and treated appropriately.

We have a conflict here between patient confidentiality and how we make sure that thereís patient safety upheld. And so itís not appropriate for me or for the officials in the department to go into a doctorís files and look at the patients. But another psychiatrist did that and followed up.

Mr. McMorris: ó Mr. Speaker, these are very serious allegations. The very vulnerable patients in this area were treated by a phony psychiatrist. They had possibly been prescribed medication incorrectly. There have been possible issues around diagnosis that were made incorrectly. And yet the minister has done nothing.

Itís interesting. Is he more interested in the fact that if he went public with this information, he was worried about lawsuits, or is he trying to cover something up, Mr. Speaker? Why didnít he notify the patients of the nature of this psychiatrist?

Hon. Mr. Nilson: ó Mr. Speaker, appropriate procedures were followed to have another psychiatrist review all of the files involved. And this was done immediately when the problem was identified by the College of Physicians and Surgeons whose job it is to monitor the professional status of physicians in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the Sun Country Health Region, using this particular procedure, was able to make sure that the patientsí care was not compromised and also to protect the privacy of the patients.

Mr. McMorris: ó Mr. Speaker, that answer is unacceptable. The patients should have been notified. Three years ago, 71 patients that were examined by a contaminated endoscope were notified in Saskatoon of the possibly of contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. These patients were informed of the risks. They were all tested.

And this case is very similar, Mr. Speaker. The minister did the right thing in Saskatoon by notifying the patients and making sure the corrective steps were taken. Mr. Speaker, he hasnít done this in the Weyburn area. Why not?

Hon. Mr. Nilson: ó Mr. Speaker, the professionals involved here ó the doctors who are part of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the other psychiatrists, and the supervising psychiatrist in the particular region ó took the appropriate steps as they deemed appropriate in this particular situation to protect the privacy of the patients, but also to make sure that they had not received any kind of adverse treatment.

Mr. McMorris: ó Mr. Speaker, there has been an arrest warrant issued for Ashoka Prasad. Why didnít the minister make the public aware of this doctor? There has been a warrant issued for him. He has done the same work in India, Australia, and BC [British Columbia], that has been fraudulent. Why hasnít the minister . . . Was he more interested in protecting himself from embarrassment as opposed to finding out and arresting this fraud in Saskatchewan?

Hon. Mr. Nilson: ó Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the arrest warrant thatís been issued has been issued by Immigration Canada, so that they will be on their records for immigration when all of this . . . when this man comes back it can be dealt with.

What I can say, Mr. Speaker, is that in this particular instance the College of Physicians and Surgeons and the people whose job it is to review credentials say that this person did have and does have psychiatric treatment capabilities as a psychiatrist, but that in subsequent years he was involved in doing research in psychiatry. And a number of the projects he was involved with were deemed to be fraudulent.

It doesnít undermine his original training, but what it does mean is that he cannot be qualified to practice in Saskatchewan once that was discovered.

Mr. McMorris: ó Mr. Speaker, this doctor was unable to practice in India. He was unable to practice in Australia. He was unable to practice in British Columbia and now Saskatchewan. And what do we do? Heís unable to practice here, but letís turn him loose on somebody else, Mr. Speaker. This person needs to be brought to justice, Mr. Speaker.

Itís not a cover-up. Itís not an embarrassment. Deal with the issue. First of all notify the patients and then deal with this doctor accordingly.

Hon. Mr. Nilson: ó Mr. Speaker, this man has been dealt with according to the professional advice of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and of the other psychiatrists. And what has been done is that heís been identified internationally through the immigration system in Canada as to the particular problems that he has here.

What this particular case identifies for all Canadians is the issue around how do we assess and acknowledge foreign credentials. Mr. Speaker, this is part of a national task that we have as ministers of Health and there are many people working on a new credentialing system so that this kind of thing will happen less frequently.

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