Two doctors disciplined for “cyber-bullying”
July 4, 2018
TORONTO – Two specialists have been disciplined for sending “abusive” and “bullying” emails to the former president of the Ontario Medical Association. The pair, who faced separate disciplinary hearings at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, pleaded guilty to committing acts of professional misconduct.
Both acknowledged that in the summer of 2016, they engaged in “disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional” conduct by sending harassing emails to then-OMA president Dr. Virginia Walley, the Toronto Star reported.
Kitchener anesthesiologist Dr. Troy Christie “Chris” Drone was suspended for a month, reprimanded and ordered to reimburse the college $6,000 in legal costs.
Brampton cardiologist Dr. Michael Tjandrawidjaja was spared a suspension, but was reprimanded and ordered to pay the college the same in legal costs.
In agreed statements of facts, both physicians acknowledged sending emails to Walley via her personal email address and an OMA email address, which could also be accessed by staff at the association.
The doctors said they were angry about a tentative contract that had been reached by the provincial government and board of the OMA, which represents the political and economic interests of doctors. The tentative deal was ultimately rejected in a vote by OMA members in August that year.
A five-member disciplinary panel was told Drone sent a barrage of profanity-laced emails to Walley. “Dr. Walley, you are a c—. Crash and burn as you deserve to do!! … Sincerely, F— YOU and the OMA!!!” he wrote in one.
Drone’s emails, filed as exhibits, showed he wanted doctors to walk off the job in protest:
“We need organized, full out job action (strike) until our concerns are heard, understood and respected …. Enough already!! Listen to everyone!!! Holy f—. For f— sakes??? F—!!!”
In total, Drone sent seven emails, including these three received within minutes of each other on Aug. 11, 2016:
6:06 p.m.: “F—off Virginia”
6:08 p.m.: “F—off!”
6:09 p.m.: “F—off!”
Drone, 50, a father of two girls, was suspended for one month from working as an anesthesiologist at St. Mary’s General Hospital and Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.
Delivering a reprimand on behalf of the panel, its chair, Dr. Pierre Giroux, said: “Either you were ignorant or wilfully blind about the way you should have interacted.”
The “abusive, bullying tone and sexual connotation” of the emails has brought the profession into disrepute and undermined the public’s trust, Giroux continued.
College prosecutor Ruth Ainsworth took particular exception to Drone’s use of the word “c—” to describe Walley:
“To insult a woman by calling her names based on female genitalia is hateful and demeaning. And as a physician to use this word to describe the head of his professional organization is deserving of an especially strong censure.”
For both doctors, the college withdrew charges of engaging in conduct unbecoming of physicians.
That’s because both admitted to professional misconduct and, on their own accord, signed up for coaching in professional communications.
Drone also took a course in ethics and boundaries.
Both physicians expressed regret for their actions and either apologized or expressed a desire to apologize to Walley.
A separate disciplinary panel was told Tjandrawidjaja sent an email to Walley, stating: “You are a turd.”
On another occasion, he sent one reading: “Virginia, how much are the liberals bribing you? It will likely come out at some point.”
Tjandrawidjaja works as a cardiologist at the Brampton Civic site of the William Osler Health System.
Ainsworth, who also served as prosecutor in this case, described his words as “childish” and “disrespectful.”
She said that even though the summer of 2016 was an acrimonious time for the medical profession, “there is no explanation and no excuse for bullying and harassing behaviour.”
Ainsworth said CPSO policies on professionalism and social media make clear doctors are held to a higher standard and must communicate in a respectful manner.