Nova Scotia

Dalhousie University and health authority treated doctors unfairly: report

A new report backs up claims by three doctors who say they were unfairly disciplined more than a decade ago by Dalhousie University and the former Capital District Health Authority.

Gabrielle Horne, Michael Goodyear and Bassam Nassar all did research at university

A new report commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers says three doctors who worked at Dalhousie University and the former Capital District Health Authority were unfairly disciplined. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A new report backs up claims by three doctors who say they were unfairly disciplined more than a decade ago by Dalhousie University and the former Capital District Health Authority. 

The report was commissioned by the Canadian Association of University Teachers, a national organization that represents academic staff and works to protect academic freedom. 

Gabrielle Horne, Michael Goodyear and Bassam Nassar all did research for Dalhousie and practised as physicians with the former Capital District Health Authority. 

"I would like to see Dalhousie acknowledge that something quite terrible did happen here and they need to be part of the solution, they need to learn from this," Horne told CBC Radio's Information Morning

CBC requested an interview with Dalhousie University president Richard Florizone, but the university refused the request. 

The report says each doctor had complaints filed against them by colleagues, including allegations of not being team players and challenging the authority of a department head. They were disciplined in "career-threatening ways," the report says. 

All exonerated

Their cases dragged on for years and when they eventually got a formal hearing, all were exonerated. 

The policies and procedures governing the relationship between Dalhousie and Capital Health were flawed and failed to protect academic freedom, according to the report.

There was also a lack of formal methods for resolving disputes, all of which the report said fosters unease and vulnerability among staff. 

The report makes recommendations, including: 

  • The creation of a new series of policies to govern the relationship the university has with the new Nova Scotia Health Authority, which replaced Capital Health.
  • That medical staff/Dalhousie faculty have contractual protections similar to other Dalhousie faculty. 
  • That medical staff/Dalhousie faculty have representation by an organization that has enforceable representation rights and resources to be effective.
  • That immediate steps be taken to bring reasonable and just closure to Horne, Goodyear and Nassar's cases. 

Goodyear said it's time for the provincial government to appoint a commission or inquiry to fix the problems that exist between the university and the health authority. 

"The first thing that the report really addresses is the relationship between the health authorities and the university that was unhelpful, was confusing and muddled and did not allow the two organizations to work together to solve problems that arose," he told Information Morning.

Horne's Story

Horne is a cardiologist who was doing groundbreaking research when the university started investigating her.

"When researchers come to work in this environment we assume that we work in a university as well as a hospital, and Dalhousie can't just pull out of that," she said. 

The investigation into Horne began after she refused to give in to pressure to include two colleagues on her research team back in 2002. Once the investigation was under way, Horne's research eventually stopped. 

"I just so vividly remember just watching my life and career unravel over that time, the hospital and the university just not seeming to care about the damage that was being done." 

Horne is now an assistant professor in Dalhousie's department of medicine in the school of biomedical engineering. 

Goodyear wants to return to teaching

Goodyear is an oncologist. He faced a complaint about the treatments he chose to use for cancer. He was banned from practice at Capital Health for six years and was no longer allowed to work at Dalhousie. He eventually declared personal bankruptcy. 

In 2009, a review board at the health authority ruled all the allegations against him were groundless.

Goodyear gets by on a settlement he received from Capital Health, but under the terms of that settlement he's not allowed to discuss it. 

Despite all that has transpired, Goodyear said he would return to teaching at Dalhousie, if the university would have him. 

The issues brought forward in these cases still aren't fully resolved. 

Horne is suing Capital Health, which has since been amalgamated with other health authorities into the Nova Scotia Health Authority. 

"The major ask in this trial is for the money to put the research program back together and take it to the place that it would have been had this not occurred," said Horne. 

That suit goes to court in April.