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Thursday, 13 September, 2007

Sex & drugs scandal rocks Adopt-A-Doc program

A doctor brought to London, ON via the city's $20,000 Adopt-A-Doc subsidy program with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario that will see him avoid a sexual abuse and narcotics inquiry in exchange for giving up his medical licence and promising to never practise again in any jurisdiction.

Dr Robert Axford-Gatley practised in London until 2004, when he left for Toronto at his wife's behest. There, he worked in cosmetic medicine. (In , he offers Botox and collagen lip treatments: "Want lips like Angelina Jolie's?") But, reports the London Free Press, his marriage fell apart and he struggled financially. He in December 2005 after receiving a $20,000 grant to facilitate the move.

Now, after allegations of sexual abuse of patients and improper prescribing, including of narcotics, Dr Axford-Gatley has managed to strike a deal to avoid a public airing of the charges. Why would the College agree to make such a deal?

In the case of Axford-Gatley, the college obtained more from the agreement than it would have been able to impose if it had investigated and prosecuted his case, [College spokesperson Kathryn] Clarke said.

"We could effectively take someone out of practice in Ontario but we have no authority to take someone out of practice elsewhere. He has agreed not to practise elsewhere," she said.
Despite Ms Clarke's reasoning, it remains to be seen how the people of London feel about an agreement that shoves allegations of sexual abuse under the rug.

Meanwhile, London mayor Anne Marie DeCicco-Best is trying to recoup part of the city's investment in the Adopt-A-Doc payments:
[DeCicco-Best] said the city sent Axford-Gatley a letter in August requesting he pay back a portion of the Adopt-A-Doc grant. There has been no response, she said.

"If he doesn't respond shortly we will have to look at what our next steps are," the mayor said.
The truth about Dr Axford-Gatley's reason for resigning, which he actually did in July, hadn't come out until now. The London Free Press had he "got burned out."

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Anonymous said...

Check out the updated story: Dr Axford-Gatley and his family were the only "victims"

Doctor claims he quit for love


A former London family doctor -- paid a $20,000 bonus by the city to set up practice here -- says it was love that made him give up his medical licence and agree never to apply to practise again.

"I have lost my licence for the woman I love. She is well worth it," Robert Axford-Gatley said.

On its website, the regulatory body for Ontario doctors said it agreed to drop its investigation -- of a public complaint of sexual abuse of patients and improper prescribing of narcotics -- in exchange for Axford-Gatley's promise to resign and never apply to be a doctor again in any jurisdiction.

Axford-Gatley said what the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario doesn't reveal -- and can't under privacy rules -- is the complaint was filed by his estranged wife, not by patients.

His lawyer, David Winninger, confirmed the complaint was made by Axford-Gatley's estranged wife. The couple are divorcing.

Axford-Gatley's estranged wife could not be contacted for comment.

Axford-Gatley said most of the complaint is unfounded in his view, but there's one part he couldn't deny -- that he was engaged to a patient.

Under legislation that governs the College of Physicians, doctors aren't allowed to have a sexual relationship with a patient. Being engaged is no exemption.

Doctors aren't allowed to date a patient until their doctor-patient relationship has ended for at least a year and, in some cases, longer.

It's mandatory for the college to revoke a doctor's licence for five years if they have sexual relations with a patient. After that, the doctor can reapply for a licence, but reinstatement isn't automatic, a college official said.

Winninger said he can understand the college's zero-tolerance approach, but it can cause hardship to people.

"The college policy is designed to capture those physicians who prey on patients. Axford-Gatley is not one of those cases," Winninger said.

Axford-Gatley traces his difficulties back to his marriage breakup when he was given sole custody of the couple's children.

For the first eight months, he hired a woman who'd babysat for the family for years, but she had to return to university.

He then hired a woman as a nanny, whom he'd known for about 10 years and who was a patient.

She had an early childhood education degree from Fanshawe College and had been a Girl Guide leader for years, Axford-Gatley said.

"My children are very, very important to me, so I wasn't going to just pick someone I didn't know to care for them. I thought I was making a good decision.

"She moved in as a nanny and I didn't really expect anything would develop between us, but it did. It was kind of like The Sound of Music," he said.

He continued to act as her doctor when she couldn't find a new one, prescribing medications and providing referrals when she was stricken with multiple sclerosis, he said.

When his estranged wife filed the complaint against him, Axford-Gatley said he was advised by a medical malpractice lawyer that he had no defence.

"I was screwed from Day 1 . . . I certainly wasn't going to be able to show a one-year gap (in their relationship)."

The fact he'd treated 25,000 people over 15 years without one complaint didn't matter, he said.

Axford-Gatley said he was advised if he agreed to resign, he could avoid the expense and publicity of disciplinary hearings that would end with the loss of his licence. He didn't expect it to become a public scandal.

Parts of his agreement with the college were posted on its website, including the terms of his agreement to stop the investigation of sexual abuse. His abrupt resignation and departure became fodder for online letters to the editor and other Internet sites, with some former patients and colleagues coming to his defence.

Axford-Gatley was one of six doctors paid $20,000 by London to set up a family practice in the city, which has a shortage of family doctors.

He'd been a family doctor in London from 1997 to 2004 before moving to Toronto. He moved back to London in 2005.

He hasn't paid back the $12,500 he owes for leaving before three years were up, he said.

"I went bankrupt just before breaking up with my ex and I have spent nearly $100,000 in legal fees for family law proceedings since then. When I find a job, I will pay the city back as I am able," he said.

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