Nova Scotia

Sydney obstetrician accused of sexual misconduct, incompetence

The details of the allegations against Dr. Manivasan Moodley, who faces dismissal from his job at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, were made public Thursday, just hours before a rally in support of him was scheduled to be held.

Dr. Manivasan Moodley to face disciplinary hearing related to conduct involving 2 patients

Dr. Manivasan Moodley began working in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in March 2017. (Holly Conners/CBC)

A Cape Breton obstetrician facing dismissal from his job at the regional hospital is facing accusations of sexual misconduct from two female patients.

Dr. Manivasan Moodley is scheduled for a formal Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons disciplinary hearing next month related to allegations surrounding contact he had with two patients in July 2017.

The details of the allegations were posted on the college's website Thursday, just hours before a rally in support of Moodley was scheduled to be held in front of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney.

In the case of a patient referred to only as A.B., the college alleges Moodley commented inappropriately on the patient's appearance, performed a physical exam in an sexualized manner and asked questions of a sexual nature that were not relevant to the medical issues.

For patient C.D., the college's allegations include that Moodley unnecessarily requested an internal exam, complimented her on the colour of her underwear and suggested seeing the patient at her home and noted he knew where she lived. The college said Moodley then violated physician-patient boundaries by seeking out the patient at her workplace.

Moodley has been required to have this notice from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia posted in his waiting room. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

About 80 people attended the rally, which took place in front of the hospital Thursday evening.

"Bring Moodley back, bring Moodley back," ralliers chanted.

Some people carried signs with messages that said "Stop pushing doctors out," "Stop abusing doctors," "Respect foreign doctors," "Re-instate Dr. Moodley now," and "Name those who want Moodley out."

A petition was passed around and signed at the rally asking for Moodley's medical licence and sponsorship to be reinstated so he can continue practising medicine.

Julia Farr, one of the protesters, said Moodley is her sister's doctor. She said she's concerned about what would happen to her sister's care if Moodley is no longer able to practise.

"We don't need to lose anymore doctors, we need to bring them back in," Farr said.

'Extraordinarily serious' allegations

Dr. Gus Grant, the college's registrar, said the allegations against Moodley are "extraordinarily serious" and follow a significant period of investigation.

Moodley, who arrived in Cape Breton in March 2017 from South Africa, has been working as an obstetrician and gynecologist on what's known as a "defined licence" in Nova Scotia.

As a foreign-trained doctor, he is required to work under a supervisor and a sponsor, and pass all Canadian licensing and certification exams before being granted a full licence. Moodley was informed last week his sponsorship is being withdrawn, and his last day of work is Friday.

Dozens of people gathered in front of Cape Breton Regional Hospital on Thursday night to rally in support of Moodley. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

On Wednesday, before the allegations against him were made public, he said he was bewildered by the sudden withdrawal of his sponsorship, and has been given no reason for it.

"I think that doctors who are recruited here should be treated with respect and dignity," he said in an interview.

He acknowledged he faced two complaints against him, but refused to discuss the details. On Thursday, he refused comment after more information was shared by the college.

Since September 2017, Moodley has been working under restrictions imposed by the college that require him to have an attendant present at all times when treating patients and not to contact patients outside a clinical setting. A notice dated Sept. 22, 2017, does not outline why the restrictions were imposed.

A letter informing patients of the restrictions is posted in Moodley's office, by order of the college.

Support from doctor

On Wednesday, Dr. Margaret Fraser, a family and emergency room doctor in Sydney and the head of the Cape Breton Medical Staff Association, said Moodley was being tossed aside like "a piece of garbage."

She said Moodley is well-liked and highly respected, and acts as a mentor to the other members of the department, most of whom are early in their careers.

On Thursday, she said in a Facebook post the rally of his supporters was still on. She said none of the allegations against Moodley had been proven and she suspected they had been "leaked so people will stay away and they can quietly dispose of him."

But Grant said he worries the "public attention" garnered by the withdrawal of Moodley's sponsorship will put extra pressure on the two complainants.

Protesters rallied outside the Cape Breton Regional Hospital on Thursday night in support of Moodley. (Gary Mansfield/CBC)

"It's very difficult to summon the courage to bring a complaint against a physician for sexual misconduct," he said in an interview.

"And with the public attention being brought to Dr. Moodley's licensure, I think there's an added intimidation that will be felt, perhaps unintentionally, but there will be a certain degree of intimidation felt by these women who are coming forward, to help us regulate the profession."

The Nova Scotia Health Authority said it cannot comment on matters involving staff.

Moodley was recruited by the former head of the obstetrics department at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, who has since retired.

The disciplinary hearing, which will be open to the public, is scheduled for Feb. 24 at the college's office in Bedford. Additional dates have been set aside for Feb. 25-28, March 31 and April 1.

With files from the CBC's Gary Mansfield and Holly Conners