TORONTO—The Royal College of Dental Surgeons (RCDS) hearing into a complaint against a Gore Bay dentist will likely not take place until well into the new Year. The complaint centres on an allegation that dentist Bill Studzienny refused service to members of the M’Chigeeng First Nation band council because of the council’s support of and participation in wind turbine projects on Manitoulin. The dentist had also refused service to municipal councillors of other communities on Manitoulin where a wind farm is located, specifically the Northeast Town relating to the McLean’s Mountain wind farm project and a member of that municipal council who had been his patient.
“Disclosure was just sent out to the parties early last month,” said RCDS spokesperson Kelly Gray when contacted about the setting of the hearing date.
Ms. Gray explained that before a hearing is scheduled, there is a pre-hearing in which the parties “try to come to an agreement” in terms of the facts of the case.
Before the complaints are referred for a pre-hearing, a filter process is applied, explained RCDS Registrar Irwin Fefergrad.
Once the essential facts of the case have been agreed to, the hearing moves along fairly quickly as any disagreement over the facts will usually have been ironed out before that point.
The hearing itself takes place before a five-person committee comprised of three members of the RCDS and two members of the public. ‘There are different committees of the college,” explained Ms. Gray. The disciplinary committee is just one of those comprising the RCDS operations. “In this case, there were three complaints that were made against Dr. Studzienny which I reviewed through my authority under the Regulated Health Professions Act regarding unprofessional conduct. “The complaints related to Dr. Studzienny’s refusal to serve and treat several of his existing patients because of their political beliefs on wind turbines,” he said.
The registrar noted that the filter committee’s decision to refer a case to the disciplinary committee includes “the provability of the case. In this case they felt that they had sufficient information to proceed with a hearing,” he said.
That being said, the allegations against Dr. Studzienny have not been proven before the disciplinary hearing.
Sanctions available to the disciplinary committee include doing nothing, “if the member is found not guilty,” he said. “They may range from a reprimand all the way to the revocation of a licence and everything in between, including suspension of a licence for a period of time.”
The penalty, if found guilty, depends a great deal on the severity of the infraction, and what mitigating factors were in play, explained the registrar.
Generally, mitigating circumstances would include not having previously appeared before the committee, being remorseful—understanding what the issue is—while aggravating factors might include continuing the conduct that had been complained about, or if there have been previous appearances before the committee, noted the registrar.
Over the past decade, the registrar indicated that he has only seen two cases where there was a revocation of a licence to practice. “It is very, very rare” to see that kind of case come up,” he said.
The actual decision of the disciplinary committee will not be posted, explained Ms. Gray. The results of the discipline committee’s decisions are normally included in the college’s magazine ‘Dispatch,’ which is distributed to the college’s members. The committee hearing dates are posted on the RCDS website.
Dr. Studzienny had earlier told The Expositor that, on the advice of his lawyer, he will make no public comments on this issue at this time.
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