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Hefty penalties proposed for Cape Breton gynecologist found guilty of professional misconduct

Dr. Manivasan Moodley, a Cape Breton gynecologist, faced allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence related to two patients in 2017 at the offices of the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons in Bedford in February and March.
Dr. Manivasan Moodley, a Cape Breton gynecologist, faced allegations of professional misconduct and incompetence related to two patients in 2017 at the offices of the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons in Bedford in February and March. - Francis Campbell

Sydney doctor facing $400,000 costs, suspension

HALIFAX, N.S. —

Dr. Manivasan Moodley is facing months of suspension and close to $400,000 in cost recovery payments to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. 

The hearing to determine what sanctions should be given to the Sydney-based obstetrician/gynecologist found guilty of professional misconduct in November resumed Tuesday virtually. 

More than a dozen charges were filed against Moodley from complaints made by two women in 2017, who had appointments with the obstetrician/gynecologist from South Africa within the first six months of him moving to Sydney. 

Some were withdrawn leaving the hearing panel to rule on 11 — seven of which Moodley was found guilty of. 

None were related to sexualized touching, however, they were related to comments or questions viewed as being sexual in nature and not relevant to the medical reasons the women were seeing the doctor. 

The two complainants, who don't know each other, had their appointments on different dates. During their one appointment, they said Moodley made comments about them being attractive, asked questions related to their sexual activity which wasn't relevant to their visit and suggested to one he could take care of her when her partner was away and it would be their secret. 

Moodley continues to deny all allegations testifying he doesn't remember the particulars of the visits. 

One woman also claimed Moodley went to her place of work, which he doesn't dispute but said he was in the neighbourhood and wanted to see why she missed a follow-up appointment. 

Dr. Manivasan Moodley follows his wife into a hearing at the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons offices in Bedford on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Moodley, a Cape Breton doctor, faces allegations of professional misconduct from 2017 related to two patients. - Francis Campbell - SaltWire Network
Dr. Manivasan Moodley follows his wife into a hearing at the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons offices in Bedford on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. Moodley, a Cape Breton doctor, faces allegations of professional misconduct from 2017 related to two patients. - Francis Campbell - SaltWire Network

COSTLY SANCTIONS 

Both parties agreed to details regarding two of the proposed sanctions — Moodley will take an ethics course and the college will reprimand the doctor. 

However, the length of suspension time and the high amount of the cost repayment to the college was disputed in-depth during the seven-hour hearing. 

Marjorie Hickey, council for the college, said the total costs incurred by her client are over $509,000.

They are looking for cost repayment of 100 per cent of the social media production motion, 64 per cent for the hearing and other motions excluding the motions relating to publication bans. This amounts to a figure between $300,000 to $400,000.

Moodley and his first legal team filed the production motion which requested all social media posts from the complainants for three years. It was made on the basis Moodley believed he was the target of racism and the two women were colluding against him. 

Affidavits from the two women indicated they didn't know each other and that the allegations caused increased stress on them, one of which was worried the accusation of being racist could affect her professional reputation. 

"Dr. Moodley made allegations of racism, of perjury, with no evidence. This type of victim blaming has to be considered an egregious factor that could lead to increase cost," Hickey said. "These were baseless allegations against both of the complainants."

Moodley's current lawyer Robin Cook took over the case near Christmas and said within two weeks, they recommended Moodley withdraw the motion, which they did. 

The college has stated Moodley will have five years to pay the money, which will start one month after his suspension.

Cook said the high amount of the cost recovery award being sought not only will prove difficult for Moodley, it could cause some doctors to not dispute complaints. 

"That type of cost award to be hanging over a physician's head would have tremendous implications. (An amount like this) can't be considered anything but punitive (which isn't allowed under regulations and the Medical Act,)" said Cook. 

"The message it is sending is you could be facing a $400,000 cost award if you go forward. It's a slippery slope. That would make many physicians say, 'I think I'll make a guilty plea even though I think I'm innocent to get me out of this.'" 

Dr. Manivasan Moodley, a Cape Breton based gynecologist, walks toward the hearing room Wednesday Feb. 26, 2020. FILE - Saltwire network
Dr. Manivasan Moodley, a Cape Breton based gynecologist, walks toward the hearing room Wednesday Feb. 26, 2020. FILE - Saltwire network

SETTING AN EXAMPLE 

Hickey said it was important the sanctions reflected to the public the regulatory body is there to protect patients and will not tolerate instances of sexual misconduct from physicians. 

This is why the college is asking the hearing panel to hand down a suspension of six to eight months. 

Cook said they believed a suspension of two to four months was more fair due to the charges against his client. 

Using case law to show situations where the respondent committed more serious acts of professional misconduct, one case Cook referred to was Dr. Enyinnaya Ezema.

In 2018, Ezema was found guilty of making sexual comments and advances on co-workers, including cornering one and running his tongue over her lip.

The psychiatrist who practiced in New Glasgow was also ordered to repay $75,000 in legal fees. 

Cook argued Ezema's actions involved touching, thus making them worse than Moodley's comments and the four months should be the maximum suspension. 

Hickey said Moodley's comments in their totality should be viewed as more serious as they were directed at patients. 

The hearing panel has the final decision in sanctions and will present their findings once deliberations are done. 

Nicole Sullivan is an immigration/diversity and education reporter for the Cape Breton Post. 

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