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

Published on January 5, 2014
Dr. Robbie Coull
Guardian photo

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.

rross@theguardian.pe.ca

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