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Suspended Barrie doctor wants to take fight to appeal court

Dr. Crystal Luchkiw's lawyer says neither the government nor the College of Physicians and Surgeons can put a 'gag' on what doctors say
2021-04-27 Dr. Crystal Luchkiw2
Barrie family physician Dr. Crystal Luchkiw is fighting her suspension after being cited for professional misconduct and being accused of writing a medical exemption for COVID-19 vaccine injections for a patient.

A Barrie doctor refuses to accept an Ontario court’s decision to allow the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to continue prosecuting her for professional misconduct and suspend her.

Dr. Crystal Luchkiw now wants to challenge that decision before the Ontario Court of Appeal. Her lawyer, Michael Alexander, has filed an intent to appeal with the court.

Luchkiw, a Barrie family physician, was cited for professional misconduct and is accused of writing a medical exemption for COVID-19 vaccine injections for a patient. The college suspended her licence on March 17.

Alexander argues the college failed to meet the legislative requirements to establish the limitation on medical exemptions as a standard of practice. 

He maintains that the college’s investigation order was unlawful, given the "extraordinary" or "exceptional" issues raised in the case.

Alexander said the Divisional Court ignored the issue of patient harm, given that 20 per cent of Luchkiw’s practice was devoted to patients in palliative care. 

As she awaits word on the appeal application, Luchkiw is scheduled to appear before the Ontario Physicians and Surgeons Discipline Tribunal on Nov. 23 where Alexander, who is also representing two other doctors, is making an application under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Alexander said the college is impeding the doctors’ freedom of expression by preventing them from expressing views about COVID-19 measures other than those presented by the college and the government. He’s also arguing that the college is preventing the doctors from providing information leading to informed consent.

“Neither the government nor the college can put a gag on what doctors say about COVID-19 because that could interfere with the most fundamental right of a patient to hear the doctor speak his or her mind … in relation to the prevention and treatment of COVID-19,” Alexander told BarrieToday. “You can’t muzzle a doctor in that situation.”

In the Oct. 12 Divisional Court decision, Justice Faye McWatt, supported by justices Anne Molloy and William Chalmers, upheld the suspension and found no procedural unfairness by the college.

Luchkiw has been practising family medicine in Barrie since 2014 and held privileges at the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) until she resigned from that position on Oct. 22, 2021, after she refused to be vaccinated. 

According to the court decision, a Barrie hospital official alerted the college that Luchkiw had resigned her hospital privileges and that she was being investigated about an interview she gave that the hospital said contained inaccurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also an allegation that she referred to a patient with enough detail to identify the patient.

The hospital official also expressed concern that an immunocompromised patient had obtained a vaccination exemption, which was suspected had been provided by Luchkiw.

College investigators then asked Luchkiw for a list of all patients for whom she had provided various types of treatments and medical exemptions related to COVID-19 along with complete medical records for each patient listed. They weren’t produced and Luchkiw did not respond to investigators’ questions.

Last month’s court decision outlines other complaints.

A patient reported to the college in the summer of 2021 that Luchkiw failed to observe proper COVID-19 protocols and that Luchkiw discouraged the use of COVID-19 vaccines on her Facebook posts. A similar concern over COVID-19 protocol was raised by a patient in December 2020.

But Luchkiw denied the allegations, maintaining that she complied with all infection-control precautions.

On Sept. 22, 2021, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit requested the college investigate concerns that Luchkiw’s clinic was open to the waiting room without a barrier and that the receptionist was not masked.

That same day, the college received concerns that Luchkiw was spreading false information about COVID-19 in a video interview, including that it was a government hoax. Luchkiw, according to the court document, refused to speak to the college investigator and prevented a review of her office.

Last February, the college’s complaints committee prohibited Luchkiw from providing medical exemptions related to COVID-19 vaccines.

There were ongoing concerns at the college that Luchkiw’s practices may expose patients to harm and that she refused to co-operate with the investigation. She contested the college’s authority and argued in writing that she had no obligation to submit to the college and could provide medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines “as she sees fit.”

Her certificate of registration was suspended the following month.

The two other Ontario doctors under investigation by the college that are represented by the same lawyer are Patrick Phillips and Mark Trozzi. Both are emergency physicians.