Nfld. & Labrador

Springdale patients threaten to sue Central Health in support of departing doctor

"We're being discriminated against."

Dr. Todd Young is closing his clinic because he's been denied hospital privileges

Dr. Todd Young says his inability to get hospital privileges in Springdale is forcing him to close his practice. (CBC)

A group of patients in Springdale are considering legal action against Central Health to get a doctor the hospital privileges he says he needs — even though it may be too late.

Janice Walsh and other residents have formed a group that is considering taking the regional health authority to court in an effort to get Dr. Todd Young to stay in the town, following other public protests in his support.

We're being discriminated against.- Janice Walsh

"What we're considering taking them to court for is not for Dr. Young as such," Walsh told CBC's Central Morning Show. "We're being discriminated against. He's got approximately 3,000 patients, and we don't have a right to choose our doctor if we still have to be admitted to a hospital."

Young announced in July that he would be shutting down his Main Street Medical Clinic, citing a lack of hospital privileges.

He lost his licence in 2015 for 19 months after he admitted to having sex with a former patient and inappropriate contact with another. Since then, he restarted a family practice, and opened addictions services and an online clinic offering patients virtual visits.

Spoken to lawyers

But in July, he posted on Facebook that his inability to get hospital privileges has "caused him to reconsider the direction of services and it is time to move on."

Protesters line up outside of announcment at the Springdale hospital on Wednesday. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Walsh said if Young leaves because of this, she believes that violates Sec. 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That section reads, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

Walsh says her group has been in contact with two lawyers who are eager to proceed, but there's a time crunch. Young has said he'll be closing his Springdale practice Oct. 9.

Young has invitations to practise elsewhere

Right now, Young's file is with the authority's medical advisory committee, and would then go to Central Health's CEO, and Walsh says her group's top priority is to plead their case directly to her. She wouldn't say if they'd hold off on any legal action until the CEO makes a decision.

"I can't confirm that, because one of the lawyers that we're dealing directly with asked us not to speak about a certain part, so that I can't comment on."

Walsh acknowledged that it's possible Young leaves even if his hospital privileges are reinstated. She said Young has received four invites to relocate: two in B.C., one in Ontario and one within Newfoundland outside of Central Health.

Difficult to find doctors

"So that part scares us because you and I, if we're in a job and we're fighting to keep our job or we're fighting to get a tool in order to do our job properly, and all of a sudden another company decides they'll give us that tool if we come with them or they'll give us better working conditions or whatever, it's a no-brainer, right? We'll just move on."

Walsh said if Springdale loses Young, getting medical care will be much harder for people like her father and other seniors. She said it's difficult to find a doctor in Gander, and then the next-best option would be Corner Brook.

"If you gotta go to Corner Brook just to get a prescription refilled, that's a bit ridiculous."​

Young, centre, poses with Brian Warr, the MHA for Baie Verte-Green Bay, left, and Justice Minister Andrew Parsons during an October visit to his Springdale clinic. (Facebook)

A spokesperson for Central Health said in an emailed statement early Thursday that it would be "premature" to comment on any potential litigation.

Young has 'courtesy privileg​es'

But a later statement from the regional health authority said it needed to "correct misleading or incorrect information publicly circulating."

The statement noted that no decision has been made yet on his current application.

And while Young doesn't have full privileges, said the statement, he has had "courtesy privileges" since early 2016.

Courtesy privileges enable family physicians to order diagnostic imaging, laboratory services, rehabilitation services, health promotion, health education, and community care to serve the needs of their patients, reads the statement.

"Dr. Young has operated a family practice without associated and active privileges since early 2016. It is common in this province, and across Canada, for family physicians to not provide hospital-based care."

Young has not responded to CBC's requests for comment.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The Central Morning Show