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Kingston doctor reprimanded for ‘crude’ comment made to female patient

A Kingston doctor has had his license suspended for two months for saying something crude and inappropriate to a female patient during treatment. File / Pixabay

A Kingston doctor is facing a reprimand from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for making a crude comment to a female patient.

Dr. Richard Henry, a 61-year-old anesthesiologist who specializes in pain management at Kingston’s Hotel Dieu Hospital, was suspended from practising medicine for two months on Monday for committing “an act of professional misconduct” that would be considered “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional.”

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The complaint came from a woman who had been receiving treatment from Henry for severe pelvic and hip pain between 2009 and 2015.

During her sessions, she received pelvic floor injections and trigger point anesthetic injections, which, according to the agreed statement of facts from the college, were very painful for the woman, who they refer to as “patient A.” This pain would sometimes be expressed by loud noises during her appointments.

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During her time with Henry, the college says patient A became increasingly uncomfortable with the casualness of his communication with her, but since she needed the treatment, she continued to frequent his practice.

On July 15, 2015, patient A was receiving trigger point injections, including in her neck, shoulders, thighs and calves, while a sheet covered areas of her body not being injected.

“Patient A was sweating and felt overwhelmed by the injections,” the agreed statement of facts read. “Patient A made loud guttural noises as a result of the pain she was experiencing.”

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The college says Henry then turned to a nurse in the room and made “an inappropriate, unprofessional, and crude comment regarding the noises patient A was making.”

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Despite Henry saying he was simply trying to make light of the situation, the college wrote that patient A was shocked and made very uncomfortable by the comment.

During the hearing about the incident, Henry admitted that the statement was an act of misconduct.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario suspended Henry from practising medicine for two months. He will also have to take sensitivity training within six months of the ruling and pay the college $6,000 for the cost of the training.

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This is not the only time Henry has been investigated by the college.

On July 11, 2018, the college cautioned Henry for “not maintaining boundaries with a patient.”

The college accused Henry of making inappropriate comments and sharing personal information with a female patient, and not ending their professional relationship when he recognized she had romantic feelings for him.

According to the decision from the college, the woman claimed that Henry encouraged her affection by flirting with her, sharing personal information, touching her inappropriately, accepting gifts from her and attending an activity the woman participated in.

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Henry denied those allegations but admitted that he did suggest she speak to a family member of his to buy a product he says wasn’t sold in Canada.

The committee appointed to the college noted that Henry did not respond to emails and a letter sent to him by the patient, but that he should have advised she visit another physician after receiving this type of attention.

Henry claimed he continued to treat her because he believed the woman would not be able to receive the same type of treatment at another doctor nearby, but the committee did not find this to be an appropriate justification for continuing the doctor-patient relationship.

“Overall, the committee was concerned that Dr. Henry allowed the patient to continue the infatuation with him, without ending the physician-patient relationship and referring the patient to another physician, and without taking any proactive steps to discourage the patient’s advances,” the decision read.

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Also, in May of this year, Henry was ordered to take professional education in opioid prescribing because the college found that the doctor failed to meet professional standards when prescribing narcotics to his patients.

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In a summary of the decision to caution Henry, the college noted that he “rarely documented changes in the patient’s narcotics, the reasons for changes, or any outcomes.”

He also apparently made no effort to test his patients to see if they were at risk for narcotics use and his practice had no contract in place that outlined expectations of patient behaviour when they were using controlled substances.

Henry did not respond to a request for comment.

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