College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I. fines former Charlottetown doctor

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Dr. Robbie Coull

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of P.E.I has handed down a $12,500 fine to a former Charlottetown doctor who closed his practice in 2011 to return home to Scotland.

In November the college fined Dr. Robert Coull after a finding of professional misconduct stemming from a patient’s complaint about the care he received.

St. Peter’s Bay resident John MacLean filed his original complaint in November 2011 after he sought treatment for a workplace injury to his ankle and back.

A report from the college’s fitness to practice committee said it found Coull’s conduct in the level of care he provided MacLean was unprofessional, fell below the expected standard of practice of medicine and constituted professional misconduct.

Coull formerly ran the Phoenix Medical Practice in Charlottetown but left to return to Scotland saying it was due to insufficient government funding and that he was $50,000 in debt after practising for two years.

He saw MacLean three times in 2010.

Since his injury, MacLean claimed he suffered unnecessary pain because several doctors were confining treatment to his ankle when the real problem was with his back.

MacLean told the college in December 2012 that Coull refused to treat his back and he felt the treatment was influenced by the Workers Compensation Board’s (WCB) involvement.

In cases of workplace injuries the WCB pays for medical treatment.

MacLean also claimed the medical practice’s technician spent more time with him than Coull did.

Coull responded in a letter to the college in which he said he provided the WCB with reports it requested relating only to MacLean’s ankle injury and he was treated according to the best medical treatment available.

The WCB didn’t dictate Coull’s treatment approach, he said.

When the college interviewed Coull, he said MacLean didn’t ask for a referral for his back and he made the appropriate referrals to orthopedic surgeons.

As part of its investigation the college interviewed several other people and sought an expert opinion from Dr. William Stanish, who is a surgery professor at Dalhousie University.

According to the report, it was Stanish’s opinion that MacLean’s back and ankle issues should have been treated as separate complaints.

The college found that MacLean was never referred to a specialist for his back pain, but it had contributed greatly to his suffering.

When he finally had surgery on his back it alleviated most of his pain, which the surgeon who performed the procedure said was 80 per cent better as of December 2012.

The report said Coull changed a WCB form to reflect only MacLean’s ankle instead of his back as well, which showed he tailored his care improperly.

The college also found Coull spent inadequate time with MacLean to ensure he provided the accepted standard of care.

Organizations: College of Physicians, Workers Compensation Board, Phoenix Medical Practice Dalhousie University

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I., Scotland

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Recent comments

  • phil jost
    phil jost
    January 06, 2014 - 13:23

    The damage this decision has done to a medical professional with the right vision at the wrong time is a travesty...

  • Marie
    January 06, 2014 - 09:44

    The pill pushing system that took an oath to CARE FOR HUMANS is so wrapped up in the money end, they've forgotten the aim of actually treating patients. When you enter a doctor's office and the first question is " Do you have insurance?", you know you're already in trouble!!! Another doctor abuses the system and moves on to practice elsewhere...what a joke on we mortals!!!

  • Douglas
    January 06, 2014 - 08:47

    You are not correct Nancy, other doctors on PEI have done the same thing so its not just Dr. Coull. Money talks....

  • islander
    January 06, 2014 - 08:35

    I had to pay to transfer my files when I got a new family doctor so it is normal for doctor's to charge to transfer the file. The only time I didn’t have to pay was when a new doctor took over the practice.

  • Tough Call
    January 06, 2014 - 08:33

    This is a tough one to form an opinion on. I have a healthy degree of skepticism for situations involving Workers Compensation. There are people who try to abuse the system. Some are successful and that just makes it harder for legitimate claims. On the other hand, I have had first hand experience with Dr Coull. His "improved" model of health care actually had merit. The problem was not with the delivery model but rather the Dr. himself. His time was too valuable to waste seeing patients. His practice was a failure because islanders didn't have the intelligence to appreciate how smart he was. That is not a direct quote but it is not an exaggeration of his feeling of self worth or his disdain for Islanders either. Doctor shortage or not, I for one am glad he is gone.

    • Pete
      January 06, 2014 - 09:53

      Dr. Coull's "feeling of self worth" however, was in many regards, deserved. He was trying to implement a model of practice that has widely proven itself as the best model available for the practice of family medicine, especially where there is a shortage of family practioners but Health PEI and/or the College Of Physicians were reluctant to move into the 21st century. I think this fine is the College's "parting shot" at a doctor who was making them look like the dinosaurs they are. Other doctors misdiagnose also (doctors aren't God), where are their fines?. Dr. Coull provided me with the best healthcare I had ever received from a family physician on PEI to that point in time.

  • Resident
    January 06, 2014 - 07:57

    Where can I find specifications on adequate time with the patient and the accepted standard of care? Can anyone point me to these reference sources?

  • Nancy
    January 06, 2014 - 01:15

    I use to take a 93 year old lady to see the Dr. when he left, he told all his patients THEY HAD TO PURCHASE their health records, for I do believe it was $30.00 per. person, and than when the lady got a new Dr. they told her that he just wanted to take money from his patients before he left..PEI.. The Dr. said they are given the patients file FREE OF CHARGE when they agree to take someone on as a patient.. He made a lot of money doing this also,, he should me made to pay everyone back..

    • Nancy
      January 06, 2014 - 10:21

      Thanks for telling me that..