Manitoba

Winnipeg dentist suspended for letting employees practise without licences

A Winnipeg dentist had his licence suspended after he admitted to letting two of his employees to practise dentistry without a licence.

Dr. Steven Lawson suspended for 4 1/2 months, will be audited for 2 years

Dr. Steven Lawson was suspended from practising dentistry for 4 1/2 months. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

A Winnipeg dentist had his licence suspended after he admitted to letting two of his employees to practise dentistry without a licence.

The Manitoba Dental Association charged Dr. Steven Lawson with five counts of professional misconduct in 2016 after it was discovered that he knowingly allowed two employees, Iam Lotuaco and Sheila Lotuaco, to work there for months without licences to practise in Canada.

"He acknowledges he made an error in judgment," said lawyer John Myers, who represented Lawson.

"Nobody was harmed by what happened, but he appreciates that in a different world he would have made some different choices."

On March 24, Lawson agreed to a 4 ½-month suspension, as well as audits by the dental association over the next two years to ensure his compliance.

"Although the suspension is fairly harsh, he wanted to put the circumstances behind him and move on in his life," Myers said.

Lawson also must take courses in record keeping, jurisprudence and ethics, as well as cover some of the costs related to his case.

Manitoba Dental Association president Cory Sul said licence suspensions are uncommon, but so is this case.

"We haven't had an incident like this before," he said. "The primary role of the Manitoba Dental Association is to protect the public interest. We take that job very seriously."

Lawson, the owner of TMJ and Dental Sleep Therapy Centre of Winnipeg, has another employee looking after some of his general dentistry patients.

But his specialized patients who receive treatment for sleep apnea will have to wait until he can practise again, Myers said.

"He's looking forward to getting back and helping those folks as soon as he can in August," Myers said.

An automated phone message at Lawson's office says he will be away until Aug. 25.

The two employees, who were married, came from the Philippines, where they worked as dentists. In April 2016, Iam Lotuaco told CBC News he and his wife never represented themselves as practising dentists in Winnipeg.

They both had completed dental assistant training in Winnipeg but said at that point they were waiting on documentation from the Philippines before they could register as dental assistants with the dental association.

The dental association banned them from applying for certification for two years.

With files from Holly Moore

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