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College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba

Regulating MDs:  The Complaint Process, Discipline,
and Screening for Fitness to Practice

Manitoba Physician Profile Regulations

The College Council must now make available to the public a profile of each MD registered to practice in Manitoba. The profile may be accessed on the Internet, by telephone, or in writing. Each physician profile must include, among other things:

  • The medical school the MD attended and year of graduation;
  • Type of post-graduate clinical training;
  • Current field of practice;
  • Date and details of any final disciplinary action taken against the MD within the past 10 years;
  • Any current restrictions, terms or conditions imposed on the MD's license, including geographic or practice restrictions;
  • The date of any medical malpractice court judgment issued against the MD by a court in Canada within the past 10 years, with the name of the court that issued it and whether it is under appeal.

Criminal Record Check for Manitoba Medical Students

The University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine requires from students a self-declaration regarding adult criminal records, any criminal charges pending, and presence on the child abuse registry as an offender (vulnerable sector search). This is required at the time of registration, and annually thereafter.

College:  Censure and Inquiry Panel

According to the Manitoba Medical Act, disciplinary action against a physician may be a Censure, or an Inquiry Panel decision.

Censure: The investigation committee may publish the fact that a member physician has been censured. The publication will usually include the member's name and a description of the circumstances that led to the censure.  [Medical Act section 49(2)]

Inquiry Panel: When a physician is found guilty after an Inquiry, the publication of the physician's name is included except where otherwise ordered by the panel. The report from the Inquiry Committee – including their Resolution, Order and Reasons – are all published. Any erasure or suspension (permanent or temporary loss of license) is reported to Manitoba Health and other regulatory agencies at the provincial and federal level. Copies of all discipline publications are forwarded to Quicklaw for inclusion in their database.  [Medical Act section 59.9]

Health Record Privacy and Amendment

Provincial and Federal Legislation

Federal
Level
PIPEDA Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act
This privacy law covers private-sector commercial organizations, including medical clinics and physicians in private practice.
Privacy Act Privacy Act
This privacy law relates to an individual's right to access and correct personal information the Government of Canada holds about them.
Provincial
Level
HIPA Health Information Protection Act
This legislation, locally enacted by each province, governs the trustees of health records.

The federal PIPEDA law governs private-sector organizations engaged in commercial activities across Canada. It sets down clear rules for how these organizations may collect, use, or disclose personal information, and guarantees concrete avenues for amending flawed information. PIPEDA applies to medical clinics and physicians in private practice.

Some provinces have HIPA legislation that, on inspection, is deemed substantially similar to the health-records subset of PIPEDA.  An organization that operates solely within such a province will be exempt from PIPEDA, unless the personal information crosses provincial or national borders.

But more than half the provinces and territories have HIPA legislation which is not substantially similar to PIPEDA. In such provinces, an application to PIPEDA may succeed.

Manitoba is a non-compliant province – its local HIPA legislation offers less protection for health records, and reveals less respect for patients, than the more farsighted PIPEDA. Compliance oversight belongs to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.

The Case of Dr. George Walter Korol

Failure of Disclosure, Breadth of Tolerance

Each provincial branch of the College of Physicians and Surgeons is supposed to publish profiles of the physicians licensed to practice in that province. The profiles should include material on the Medical Register including education, specialty, malpractice judgments, and criminal record. But until very recently, no criminal convictions were reported for the name Dr. George Walter Korol.

Dr. Korol worked as a family doctor in California when he firebombed a relative's house. Convicted of arson and uttering terrorist threats, Korol was sentenced to five years in prison. The Medical Board of California deemed him unfit to practice medicine and rescinded his license. Korol was also stripped of his green card. When released from jail, he was deported back to Canada in 1999.

A year later, Dr. Korol obtained a license to practice medicine in Manitoba. The College Registrar said the regulatory body was aware of Korol's criminal past but did a review that determined he is a competent physician able to work in the province.

Contributory Negligence — The case of Dr. George Korol shows the breadth of tolerance that professional colleagues can extend to a member whose conduct is under review.

Rebuttal:  In Feb 2009 Dr. Korol was convicted of two counts of assault, possession of a weapon contrary to an order, and two counts of failure to comply. He served 42 days in police custody then was sentenced to an additional three months in provincial jail. Justice officials are mum on where Dr. Korol served his time, but court documents show he was released from Headingley Correctional Centre in August 2009. He spent the following three years on supervised probation.

Helene Villaneueva, a former employee at Korol's Westbrook Medical Clinic, offered insider knowledge in an affidavit: George told me he wrote false prescriptions under other people's names so he could use the drugs himself. The prescriptions were for lithium and diazepam.

The College suspended Dr. Korol but refused to disclose reasons. This echoes another suspension Korol had earlier in Manitoba in 2005. The unwillingness of the College to produce details raises serious questions about the regulatory body's transparency. What about patient safety? Improper billing may not affect a doctor's medical competence, but an MD who repeatedly exhibits dangerous behavior raises concern about psychological soundness.

The college says it directed Dr. Korol, while suspended, to keep tabs of any tests he had ordered for patients, but that's of little solace now that patients know he was in jail for three months during that period.

As of 2009, Manitoba Health Minister Theresa Oswald had no ministerial power to compel the College to make information public. Since then, the province hammered out new legislation to shift the reins of power. The new rules force the College to be more transparent, erasing some of the College's discretionary power to keep names of MDs who have been suspended under wraps. And the Health Minister wins the power to intervene.

Result of the new rule:  The College Disciplinary Decision for Dr. Korol was finally made public.

Georgena S. Sil
Saskatoon, Canada
Physicist & Technical Writer
Alumnus: University of British Columbia

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