A Saskatoon doctor accused of inappropriately touching female patients is taking new appointments.
On an official list, last updated July 19, Dr. Alistair Dudley was noted as available for walk-in patients at the Idylwyld Medical Centre on Idylwyld Drive North.
His name is also on a list of 13 doctors whose cases are currently under review by the College of Physician and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS).
None of the physicians under review in the province have been suspended from practicing, but may face conditions.
CPSS charged Dudley on May 24, after four female patients complained of inappropriate touching and comments during visits.
“The college does take public protection very seriously, and it’s quite concerned with dealing with issues of professional misconduct,” said Bryan Salte, CPSS associate registrar.
“At the same time, there’s also a required process and there’s a requirement to be fair to physicians so they have an opportunity to adequately defend themselves,” he said.
The college skipped holding a preliminary hearing in Dudley’s case, opting to move straight to laying charges. At that point, Salte said it’s up to the CPSS to decide whether to suspend the physician during the review process.
“We’re also guided by a couple of court decisions, which have said an interim suspension is the very last alternative you should look at,” Salte said. “If there’s any other reasonable way to deal with concerns about public safety, you deal with it that way.”
The college decided Dudley may practice, but a chaperone must be present for all in-person visits with female patients.
The presence of a chaperone doesn’t always mean a physician is under review. Many doctors choose to have someone else in the room during examinations, according to Salte.
A sign in the Idylwyld clinic’s waiting room Thursday stated: “By Dr. Dudley’s request, he’ll be consulting all female patients with a chaperone in the exam room.”
It didn’t say why, and staff are not obligated to tell patients even when asked.
In a phone call, a worker at the Idylwyld clinic said if a patient asked why a chaperone is needed, they would be told. As of Thursday, no one had asked.
Calls to speak with Dudley were not returned.
People say information should be more accessible
Information on all cases under review is open to the public and available on the CPSS website.
“If somebody is interested in finding out about their physician, the thing they’re going to do is look at the website and they’re going to find the information on the website about the physician,” Salte said.
People who spoke with News Talk Radio outside the clinic Thursday didn’t seem to agree.
Donna, who didn’t want her last name used, said information about Dudley’s case should be more readily available.
“Definitely make it public; Facebook, all over so people know what they’re getting into before they get in,” she said.
“It’s really hard to actually see a physician nowadays, nevermind having to deal with something like that.”
Donna told News Talk Radio she didn’t know about the files available online, and said she wouldn’t know where to find them.
Another woman outside the clinic, who did not want to be named, said if the charges involve inappropriate touching, the public should be allowed to know.
“Like if someone steals a bike, their name gets plastered everywhere. And this? There’s nothing,” she said.
One woman, who’s not a patient of Dudley’s and asked to remain anonymous, told News Talk Radio she shared the link to the physician’s charges on Facebook because she believed he misused a position of trust and authority.
“At the same time, people are innocent until proven guilty and just because he is being charged does not mean he will be convicted,” she said.
Next steps for physicians under review
Salte said there’s no clear answer for how long the review process will take for Dudley; he’s been given a “reasonable period of time” to accept or deny the charges.
If he accepts, and the college has enough evidence to go to a penalty hearing, the case could be completed as early as September.
If he denies the charges, a hearing will have to be scheduled with legal counsel, witnesses and other affected parties.
Salte said it can take a “reasonably significant period of time” to arrange a hearing.
The college can’t share patient complaints with police due to confidentiality issues. Salte said patients are advised – if the conduct is deemed criminal – that they can file a police report.
“Some will file with police and never tell us, others will tell us and never file with police and there’s a variety of different reasons why individuals choose one pathway or the other,” he said.
Saskatoon police said Thursday they have not received any reports about Dudley.
In 2015, the college received 2,556 complaints. It sent out 381 forms in response to incidents requiring further investigation; 175 formal complaints were returned.