A Halifax law firm is preparing to potentially file a class-action lawsuit against a prominent Halifax-area dentist whose licence was suspended this week after several allegations of misconduct.
“We’re here to listen to what people have to say and we’re here to help assess any potential claims that they may have,” said Angeli Swinamer, a partner at the firm, in an interview.
More than 150 people have expressed interest in being part of the potential lawsuit to date, she added.
The news comes the same day as a number of Gaum’s former patients held a protest in Bedford, outside his most recent place of employment.
“I thought I was going crazy because at the time, no one was listening to me,” said Mary MacDonald, who was treated by Gaum for 13 years, and attended the rally Saturday .
“It’s because of him I’m scared to go to a dentist today. I haven’t been to a dentist since I left him in 1988.”
MacDonald alleged Gaum did not wait for freezing to kick in before beginning an operation on her gums and told her if she kept crying, the freezing “wouldn’t work” and he would have to start over.
She said she would consider joining a class action lawsuit “not for the money,” but to ensure no one else suffers similar treatment.
At the protest, many told Global News they suffered in silence for years, believing they were alone.
“I didn’t tell (my mother) until years later, because I thought I was bad, and I got a slap for being a bad girl for not opening,” said Christine Shupe, who was treated by Gaum at the age of five.
“It left me with a lot of anxiety over the years and trust issues towards men.”
Marcia Olsen, another former patient, said Gaum’s rough treatment left bruising on her face and neck as a child.
He or his staff, she added, then threatened to blame it on her mother’s daycare business if she complained to the provincial dental board.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The youngest protester on Saturday was just seven years old.
“He told me to shut up and he put his hand on my mouth,” said Azaryiah Jackson, who stood outside the Granville Dental clinic with her mother, Amanda Jackson.
Gaum’s licence to practice dentistry in Nova Scotia was suspended indefinitely this week by the Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia.
Dr. Curtis Gregoire, the deputy registrar of the Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia, told Global News in a statement on Thursday that the decision came after the board’s complaints committee held an emergency meeting to consider a number of complaints against Guam.
On Saturday, Don Moors, speaking on behalf of the dental board, said the investigation remains ongoing but that they could not provide specific details on the investigation in order to protect patient confidentiality.
Halifax Regional Police have also confirmed to Global News that they’ve received at least four complaints about a man who was working as a dentist at 1083 Bedford Hwy. in Bedford.
They are investigating the complaints, Const. John MacLeod, a spokesperson for the police force said. No charges have been laid.
Dr. Gaum’s attorney Joel Pink has declined repeated attempts for an interview, only saying Dr. Gaum will not be commenting until the Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia’s investigation is complete. Gaum is co-operating with that investigation.
–With files from Global News’ Graeme Benjamin
Editor’s Note: This article was updated at 1:16 p.m. AST on Nov. 22, 2020 to correct a title.