The Yukon government is keeping Yukoners in the dark about doctors’ discipline history in the territory.
Data obtained by the News shows 17 substantiated complaints have been filed against doctors in the territory in the previous seven years. That number makes up the difference between the total number of complaints received by the Yukon Medical Council (YMC), the territory’s medical regulator, and the number of unsubstantiated or dismissed complaints from 2015 to 2021.
In total, 74 complaints were filed in the previous seven years. While all complaints were dismissed in 2017, there were three substantiated complaints in 2015, one in 2016, four in 2018, four in 2019, two in 2020 and three in 2021.
But the outcome of each complaint received by the council remains off the public record — even when doctors are guilty of professional misconduct — due to current legislation governing the regulation of medicine that prevents the YMC from releasing doctors’ discipline history.
The YMC chair wants that to change as soon as possible.
“Whether it be updated or repealed, and a new Health Profession Act be promulgated, the Yukon needs new legislation to regulate its physicians in the modern world so that the YMC can perform its core functions fully and be more transparent like the provincial colleges of physicians and surgeons when it comes down to the public notification of disciplinary actions taken against physicians,” Dr. Daniel Carew said.
“But it will take time to do it right.”
Carew said the YMC can dismiss complaints that are unfounded or without sufficient evidence.
He said any substantiated complaint results in disciplinary action.
“At the very least, in complaints against a physician where the finding is that the physician is guilty of ‘unprofessional conduct’, there should be a public notification of this complaint outcome together with the disciplinary action taken,” Carew said.
He said the YMC has not had to revoke a license or suspend a physician from medical practice in his 11 years with the council.
According to its website, YMC is a non-public body that regulates the practice of medicine in the territory including issuing, suspending and revoking licences of physicians; investigating and responding to complaints from patients; taking action when physicians are practising in incompetent, unethical or illegal ways; and developing standards of practice.
Echo Ross, director of communications for the Yukon’s department of Community Services, explained that the council is technically an independent decision-maker, but its operations are effectively managed by the territorial government. The Yukon government’s professional licensing and regulatory affairs branch provides administrative support to the council.
In a statement, the branch said it could only share the aggregated data because the Yukon’s Medical Professions Act prevents the council from publicly releasing specific discipline information unless the subject of the complaint agrees to the release of the information. The digital records go back to 2015.
“We cannot go into specific outcomes but in general they range from cautions and education to fines and restrictions on practice,” reads a statement.
The names of physicians who were disciplined and the dates of disciplinary actions cannot be provided.
“The Government of Yukon recognizes the existing Medical Profession Act has some limitations,” reads the branch’s statement.
“We are currently reviewing the act as part of this government’s commitment to improve the regulation of health-care service professionals.”
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White said her party has supported people through their efforts to file complaints against doctors.
White said physician discipline should be transparent.
“You should be able to go online and see what’s happened in the past,” she said.
“It’s very clouded in secrecy. I mean, that’s not ideal, right? Information should be available, and people should be able to see if concerns had been highlighted in the past.”
Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn provided a written statement in place of an interview.
“We are aware of concerns that have been raised around the disciplining of health professionals in the Yukon,” he said.
Mostyn acknowledged a broad review of health legislation — specifically the Medical Profession Act and the Health Professions Act — is underway.
“As part of this process, we will be considering how to increase transparency in the disciplinary process, and we will engage with stakeholders before any potential changes are made.”
Other jurisdictions across the country aren’t so secretive about complaints against physicians and resulting disciplinary actions.
A scan of regulatory body websites suggests the Yukon is still less transparent than some places.
For example, an investigation committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba, the province’s regulatory authority, censured Dr. Wilhelmus Petrus Grobler in June 2022 for failing to meet the standard of care with an unnamed patient and his conduct during a clinical encounter with another unnamed patient.
The Manitoba investigative committee directed that the censure and the circumstances that led to the censure be made public. The college publicizes many of its censures and inquiry panel decisions in this way. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia also puts out public notifications regarding disciplinary actions on their website going back ten years and the actions remain public records in perpetuity.
In the Manitoba censure document, Grobler provided treatment for myocarditis without sufficient evidence to support the diagnosis and prescribed anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin to the patient when he knew or ought to have known that providing the prescription was neither based on evidence nor in the best interest of the patient.
“By doing so in his capacity as a physician, he lent credibility to misinformation from unreliable sources and breached his undertaking to [the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba],” reads the censure document.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org