Just after my article entitled “Infection Control Lawsuits: Getting Sued For Nervous Shock” got published last month, yet ANOTHER dental office was shut down by public health. Apparently, a disgruntled former employee at Dr. Joe Philip’s office initiated a complaint about the infection control practices at his office which resulted in an investigation by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and a shutdown. The Health Unit then issue a release, telling patients to get themselves tested for Hep B and C and HIV.
The media picked up it (it was featured in Barrie Today, Barrie CTV News, and CTV News) and it was shared HUNDREDS of times on social media in a matter of days. And now the law firm that launched a class action against Dr. Vick Handa has announced that it will be launching another $10-million class-action lawsuit (and let’s not forget the $10-million class-action lawsuit against Guelph Dental Associates).
The problem now is that Dr. Joe Philip, who we must presume to be innocent, has to fight for his career and reputation as a dentist because public health and the media have taken a sledgehammer approach to an investigation and made him appear guilty at first instance. The worst part is that this could happen to any dentist… a disgruntled employee or patient or competitor dentist?
Dentists need to be vigilant here. Dentists should, in my humble opinion:
- Ensure they have the most up-to-date equipment, staff and training to comply with new IPAC checklists that came out (which includes having a policy manual in place to deal with IPAC.
- Have the ODA and RCDSO work WITH public health to make sure investigators are TRAINED to understand the delicate nature of their jobs and are gathering the right information. Optics is key here and people’s livelihoods are on the line.
- Start a media campaign (I note that it seems like CTV news seems to be the ones that keep on publishing these types of stories) to counter the misconceptions of dentists and infection control AND educate the public about the very low risk of infections spreading due to reprocessing of dental tools at dental offices.
- Increase their insurance from $2-million to $25-million through PLP (last time I checked, the premiums were only ~$800 more per year, but this would cover a class-action lawsuit seeking $10-million in damages – which by the way is very difficult to succeed in).
- Create a go-to body (perhaps the Canadian Dental Protective Agency could take this on) that specifically deals with getting involved and pushing back on public health to ensure dentists’ rights and reputations are not being trampled on needlessly if there is a pending or actual investigation.
- Get lobbyists involved (maybe the ODA could do this?) to help amend laws that govern how investigations take place.
Dentists can’t afford to do nothing. Dr. Joe Philip is appealing public health’s actions and decisions and a hearing will take place on March 13th, but the damage is already done…