Five years of ‘stress, isolation and poverty’
Dr. Michael Goodyear marked an anniversary this week. He didn’t celebrate.
Five years ago on Tuesday — Oct. 2, 2002 — Goodyear, a respected medical oncologist and ethics researcher, received a letter from his bosses at the Capital District Health Authority.
As the result of ongoing personality clashes with his division head over Goodyear’s “communication… availability and judgment,” the chief of medicine, Dr. Elizabeth Anne Cowden, informed the doctor she was varying his hospital privileges.
The problem is that you can’t simply vary a doctor’s hospital privileges — which are critical to his ability to do his job — because he doesn’t get along with his boss. You have to prove he poses a real threat to his patients’ safety.
The CDHA hasn’t — and it’s had five years to make its case.
The District Medical Advisory Committee spent three months investigating the allegations against Goodyear, and found no substance to them. A complaint was also lodged with the doctors’ governing body, the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons. It too was unable to substantiate the allegations, and eventually withdrew its complaint.
Despite that, the Capital District Health Authority — which, by its own rules, should have dealt with Goodyear’s case within a month after the initial emergency variance — has dragged its feet, all the while refusing to restore his privileges.
Worse, it appears — on the face of it — to have done its best to consign him to languish in a kind of extended exile. According to a complaint Goodyear lodged this summer with the province’s human rights commission, the CDHA has restricted him from “clinical practice, research, teaching, administrative duties and publication and presentation of my work.” It stripped him of his position as the authority’s research ethics chair — despite the objections of other members of the committee and several former chairs — and locked him out of his office. He was eventually forced to declare bankruptcy.
“Five years (and still counting) is a significant time taken out of one’s life at a time when one is supposed to be at one’s most productive and thinking about planning for retirement,” Goodyear mused in an email this week. “Five years,” he added, “is a long time to spend under continuous stress, professional and social isolation and poverty.
The only recent development in his case is that the CDHA’s board has finally agreed to assume jurisdiction of the case from the hospital’s privileges review committee, which hadn’t managed to come to a conclusion in five years of sort-of trying.
While that should be good news, Goodyear notes, “the two bodies are now, as expected, arguing about the terms of such a transfer [of jurisdiction], and this is continuing to occupy the now even larger list of law firms engaged in the process.”
Ah, yes, the lawyers — the only ones who actually benefit from this protracted affair.
And not just this one.
We know through freedom of information requests that the CDHA has already spent more than a million dollars on outside lawyers to fight a similar — and similarly ongoing, not to mention similarly frivolous — case involving pioneering heart researcher Dr. Gabrielle Horne.
The Horne case started at almost exactly the same time and involved the same non-issue of personality differences with her bosses. Last September, the authority’s board finally ruled that it had had no authority to vary Horne’s privileges but it did so in such a reluctant, roundabout way that Horne is now suing the health authority.
Which means the case will cost taxpayers — and Nova Scotia’s underfinanced health system — even more than it already has.
We can only guess that the CDHA has spent at least as much on outside lawyers in Goodyear’s case — and will continue to run the clock until it runs out of legal options.
Or until the premier and his minister of health insist the authority stop wasting our money on lawyers to cover its collective ass and spend it on providing health care instead.
Are you listening, Rodney? Chris?
In last week’s column, I quoted Jayati Vora, a former student in Columbia’s School of Public and International Affairs who’d written an article for The Nation about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent speech at the university. I described Vora as a he. Well, “he” is, in fact, a she. My apologies.Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King’s College. His column, Kimber’s Nova Scotia, appears in The Sunday Daily News.
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