N.S. dentist's licence suspended after alleged misconduct spanning almost 50 years
Police say they are investigating numerous allegations that Dr. Errol Gaum assaulted patients
A Halifax-area dentist facing hundreds of accusations of professional misconduct spanning decades, including using excessive force while treating children, has had his licence suspended indefinitely.
The Provincial Dental Board of Nova Scotia said it convened an emergency meeting of its complaints committee Wednesday to consider recent allegations made against Dr. Errol Gaum, a registered dentist who was most recently practising in Bedford.
Gaum's suspension is effective immediately, the board said Thursday in a brief news release. The board declined an interview with CBC News and would not specify the number of complaints received about Gaum.
The announcement comes about one week after Ryan Binder took to Facebook to share his six-year-old daughter's "unacceptable" experience with Gaum on Nov. 10.
"It's a really good day today," Binder told CBC News on Thursday. "It's a good start."
Dentist told girl, 6, to 'shut up,' says father
He said his mother took his daughter, Peyton, to Gaum's clinic to have a tooth pulled. He alleged Gaum covered the girl's mouth and plugged her nose in an attempt to stop her from crying while she was in his dentist chair. When she persisted, Binder said Gaum told her to "shut up."
Binder said his mother could hear her granddaughter crying and voiced her concerns to the receptionists, but she wasn't permitted into the treatment room.
Binder's post on Facebook, which had been shared 24,000 times as of Thursday, led to an uproar on social media and hundreds of other allegations of professional misconduct. None of the allegations has been proven in court.
Binder said that in the first 24 hours after posting, he received more than 300 messages from people with similar stories about Gaum.
A public Facebook group called The Victims of Dr. Errol Gaum created Nov. 11 has amassed more than 1,800 members. The group, which was prompted by Binder's post, has dozens of posts from people sharing stories that span decades.
Binder said he's looking for assurance from the dental board that Gaum's licence, which was issued in 1971, will not be reinstated.
According to a spokesperson for the dental board, Gaum can request a meeting to review the complaint committee's decision, but absent that, the suspension is indefinite. The spokesperson did not specify whether Gaum has made such a request.
Police investigating reports of assault
Binder is also calling for criminal charges to be laid. He said his family called police the day of his daughter's appointment and were scheduled to give statements Thursday afternoon.
Police "are investigating numerous reports that a man who was working as a dentist assaulted patients at numerous locations over a period of time from the 1970s to this year," said Const. John MacLeod, a spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police, in an email.
"The investigations are in the early stages and no further information is available at this time," he said.
Similar experience in 1980s
Stephanie Grant, now 44, said she was a patient of Gaum's as a child in the early 1980s. Grant said she had an experience similar to Peyton Binder's when she was around nine years old. She alleged Gaum plugged her nose when she cried out in pain.
"He literally smothered me," Grant said.
Grant said Gaum was aggressive with her on several other occasions, leaving her mouth swollen and bruised for days. She said she didn't tell her parents until years later because she was uncertain and afraid of how they might respond.
Grant described her experience as "horrific" and the source of an ongoing fear of the dentist. She saw Binder's post last week and was surprised to learn that Gaum was still practising.
The new allegations prompted her to write to the dental board to share her story and ask for Gaum's licence to be revoked.
"And hopefully, if there's any charges that can be brought against him, they will and he'll be held accountable," she said.
Gaum's lawyer, Joel Pink, told CBC News his client will co-operate with the dental board in its investigation.
With files from Elizabeth Chiu