Alberta court says pediatrician facing sex assault charges can resume seeing patients

The governing agency for Alberta’s doctors overstepped in suspending the licence of a pediatrician charged with sexual offences against a minor, says a ruling by Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

Suspension from practice punitive to doctor and didn't improve public safety

Dr. Ramneek Mohinder Kumar is charged with sexually assaulting a girl, who was not a patient, in August 2015. A judge allowed Kumar to return to his practice while he awaits trial. (Submitted, name withheld)

UPDATE (added Nov. 17, 2020): Alberta pediatrician found not guilty of sexually assaulting 9-year-old girl

The governing agency for Alberta's doctors overstepped in suspending the licence of a pediatrician charged with sexual offences against a minor, says a ruling by Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench.

The decision means that Dr. Ramneek Kumar can resume seeing patients as long as there is a chaperone present, in accordance with a previous requirement set down by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta.

"The regulatory body should be imposing the least restrictive means to protect the public interest in interim situations and unproven allegations," Calgary Justice Kristine Eidsvik wrote in a decision released on July 9. 

Kumar was working as a pediatrician at St. Albert's Rivercrest Medical Clinic when he was arrested in March and charged with two counts of sexual interference and sexual assault of a minor. 

The alleged incident took place in August 2015 and involved an eight-year-old girl — not one of his patients — while on a family vacation. 

On April 2, the college placed a chaperone condition on his practice permit; the next day, Kumar resigned from the clinic.

According to the court decision, he had taken a new position in a Calgary clinic and began practising there on May 9. Less than a week later, the college announced that his licence was suspended.

Eidsvik noted that Kumar, who has worked as a pediatrician for more than 20 years, including since 2011 in the Edmonton area, would suffer irreparable damage to his income and his reputation. 

In an affidavit, Kumar estimated his monthly loss of income at $40,000 less clinic fees, plus $6,480 for a chaperone for the next three months.

"In addition, of course, is the harm to Dr. Kumar's reputation by not being allowed to practise, despite ... having a chaperone present," Eidsvik wrote. 

"At his new clinic Dr. Kumar, expected to help and treat between 100 to 125 patients a week. Further, an extended time off work will lead to him losing the working relationships that he had spent years developing."

Public safety concerns addressed

Eidsvik also ruled that the more serious concern, the issue of public safety, also did not merit the suspension of his licence to practise. 

On a practical level, she wrote, safety issues were more than addressed by the expectation that the examination of any minor would be done in the presence of two other adults  — the chaperone and the child's parent or guardian.

She also noted Kumar's "vehement denial" of the accusations, "evidence that there may be improper motives involved in the complaint."

"The college," she added, "was not able to answer why it would be necessary to have a complete restriction by suspending Dr. Kumar at this stage of the proceedings for the public safety concern."

Kumar's trial is set for Oct. 17 in Lethbridge provincial court.