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Complaint filed against N.B.’s top doctor over handling of mystery brain disease

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A man whose father was considered one of a cluster of New Brunswickers suffering from a neurological syndrome of unknown origin has filed a complaint against the province’s Chief Medical Officer of Health – citing an apparent lack of transparency in her handling of the investigation – Mar 28, 2022

A man who’s served as an outspoken advocate for those implicated in New Brunswick’s investigation into a mysterious neurological syndrome has filed a complaint against the province’s top doctor.

Steve Ellis, whose father Roger Ellis was one of the 48 people initially identified to be suffering from the syndrome, says he believes Dr. Jennifer Russell “violated the code of ethics of her profession.”

The cluster of patients reported symptoms such as rapidly progressing dementia, muscle spasms and atrophy. Ten of the 48 patients have died and six of them had autopsies completed.

READ MORE: Oversight committee rules out mysterious brain disease in New Brunswick

On February 24, the same day Dr. Russell took part in the presentation of a final report that concluded Roger Ellis and the others in the cluster were not suffering from any new neurological syndrome, Steve says she met with him and others to go over the report.

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“We realized in that meeting that there were many aspects that Dr. Russell lied about,” he alleges.

According to Ellis, Dr. Russell told him and others in attendance that the province had been prepared to test blue-green algae as a potential cause, but she said no blooms were reported in the summer of 2021.

He pointed out, though, that the City of Moncton did in fact issue an advisory on July 9 regarding blue-green algae in Irishtown Nature Park.

“So that was a flat-out lie,” Ellis says.

Dr. Neil Cashman, a neurologist recruited for the province’s investigation, told Global News previously the algae was one of many factors the team would look at.

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Ellis also says he felt the investigation ignored any possible cases outside of the province.

“It was infuriating,” he says.

“When we took her to task on it, she just kept to her talking points.”

Ellis says he never intended to resign after the investigation’s conclusion — though he waited a month before filing his complaint.

READ MORE: Researcher says all theories considered in neurological syndrome investigation

Paperwork he provided to Global News shows his written complaint was filed with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick on March 24.

“I profoundly do not trust Dr. Jennifer Russell’s judgment in the handling of the former investigation or further investigations into what seems to be a growing cluster of neurological illnesses in the province of New Brunswick that are devastating families like mine,” Ellis writes in the complaint.

The College would not comment on the complaint of the investigation process.

Bruce McFarlane, spokesperson for New Brunswick’s Department of Health, says they haven’t received word of a complaint.

“Dr. Jennifer Russell has yet to receive any correspondence related to this kind of complaint,” he said in an email.

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Ellis says others in an online support group for those impacted by the investigation into the neurological syndrome have reached out with questions, seemingly with the intent to file similar complaints.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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