Alberta regulators gave licence to psychiatrist who had sex with patient

The Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons missed a step while conducting a background check before it granted a licence earlier this year to a psychiatrist who lost his privileges in two other provinces after admitting he had sex with a patient.

Alberta regulators never requested a certificate of conduct from their counterparts in New Brunswick before allowing Dr. James Bernard Hanley, 72, to practice at a clinic at 4 Wing Cold Lake, the Canadian Forces base northeast of Edmonton.

Kelly Eby, a spokeswoman for the Alberta College, said obtaining such a certificate is standard protocol when a doctor from elsewhere applies for a licence in Alberta.

But Dr. Ed Schollenberg, registrar for the New Brunswick College of Physicians and Surgeons, said Wednesday that authorities in Alberta never contacted him.

New Brunswick allowed Hanley to treat soldiers at CFB Gagetown from 2005 to 2007 while the complaint against him in Newfoundland and Labrador was heard. It joined Newfoundland and Labrador in revoking his licence after Hanley acknowledged having had sexual relationship with a patient there.

The offence of a psychiatrist having sex with a patient “is about as serious as it gets,� Schollenberg said.

In granting him a licence, Alberta placed certain restrictions on Hanley, including limiting the hours he can work and allowing him to see patients only when another regulated health official is present.

It is possible the Alberta College was aware of Hanley’s history and opted to issue a licence to him anyway.

“The only thing I can say for certain is that they never asked us,� Schollenberg said.

Eby said Alberta officials check to see if there are pending complaints against a doctor and check for disciplinary decisions when they are reviewing an application.

The fact that a doctor has previously had a licence revoked is taken into consideration, but does not necessarily preclude another from being issued, Eby said.

“There are all sorts of things we do as a regulating body to make sure the patient is safe, but it also has to be fair to the doctor,� Eby said.

The Alberta College will receive quarterly updates from one of Hanley’s supervisors in Cold Lake, and records will be checked to see how many hours he is billing. Spot checks may also be conducted to assure Hanley is adhering to the restrictions.

Schollenberg said he does not believe the restrictions are entirely relevant.

“They all deal with his behaviour in the office,� Schollenberg said. “As far as we are aware, he never was accused of misbehaving in the office. It was always somewhere else. The meetings he had with his patient occurred outside of the office and were planned events.

“So if what they are trying to do is address his past issues, it doesn’t really look like it does that.�

Hanley did not return a phone call from the Journal, and 4 Wing Cold Lake referred questions to a media liaison in Ottawa.

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