Nfld. & Labrador

Anesthesia intimidation will stop: N.L. dean

A training program for medical school graduates at Memorial University of Newfoundland will close if the school can't erase concerns about intimidation in its anesthesia department.

A training program for medical school graduates at Memorial University of Newfoundland will close if the school can't erase concerns about intimidation in its anesthesia department.

The group that accredits medical school programs, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, sent Memorial a letter Feb. 3 saying it will withdraw accreditation of its residency program in anesthesiology if problems with the program aren't fixed.

"A notice of intent to withdraw accreditation is given when major weaknesses have been identified which bring into question the continued accreditation of a program," says the college's letter obtained by CBC News.

A college  accreditation committee found two problems:

  • Ongoing allegations of intimidation that remain unresolved by the program.
  • Lack of supervision by the cardiology staff on-call when the residents are on the cardiac care unit rotation.

The college said it will do an external review to see if the university has fixed these problems by Jan. 31, 2013. The university can ask the college to begin its review earlier.

environment ...'

Memorial University's dean of medicine, Dr. James Rourke, said the medical school is taking the college's letter very seriously, especially the harassment and intimidation problem.

"We believe that the learning environment should be a positive environment free of concerns about intimidation … we just have to be sure that we have a positive learning environment and that was their concern, that it wasn't what we should have," Rourke said.

"There was an issue of lack of respect between some of the anesthetists and some of the residents."

He said the college's second concern will also be addressed.

"All residents work under varying degrees of supervision by a staff person when they are on-call. [The college] felt that we were giving the residents too much responsibility on their own," Rourke said. "So this is an issue that can be fairly readily addressed," he said.

Patients should not be concerned that their care was affected by the problems the college identified, Rourke said, promising the program will be fixed.

"We are absolutely committed to ensuring this program is carried on. It's a vital part of our teaching program — a vital part of providing service to people in Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.

The anesthesia program accepts three to five new residents (medical school graduates who are continuing their studies in a medical specialty) every year.

In any given year, 20 to 25 doctors are training to be anesthetists in the five-year program. The college normally reviews each program it accredits every six years.