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Three Women File Lawsuits Against St. Thomas Doctor and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital

Allegations include: Significant complications from surgery and no information provided about obstetrician and gynecologist’s practice restriction imposed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons

LONDON, ON, Nov. 4, 2011 -- Three lawsuits have been issued by three women and their families in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Cathy S. Frank of St. Thomas. Also named in the suits are St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital, Dr.  John A. McKenzie, and various officials with the Hospital.

The lawsuits arise out of Dr. Frank’s surgical treatment of the women for gynecological issues. London lawyers, Barbara Legate and Joni Dobson of Legate & Associates, represent the women. Ms. Dobson, on behalf of the firm, confirmed that more cases are coming. As of September 14, 2011, Dr. Frank has been restricted by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO), from practice in the area of gynecological or obstetrical surgery.

 “In our practice alone, four women have come forward. Three have claims we are pursuing and we are investigating a fourth,” Ms. Dobson said. Each of the women suffered significant complications in their surgery.

Of concern to the women is that they did not know that Dr. Frank’s competence to conduct the surgery was ever a concern. Since experiencing the complications, they have learned that CPSO, physicians’ governing body, had placed a practice restriction on Dr. Frank.  The restriction was imposed on January 19, 2009 by the College as follows (from its website):

As from January 19, 2009, the following term, condition and limitation is imposed on the certificate of registration held by Dr. Cathy Sheila Frank, in accordance with an undertaking and consent Dr. Frank has provided to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario:

I, Dr. Cathy Sheila Frank, will undergo a comprehensive practice assessment and abide by the recommendations of the assessor, and until the completion of the assessment and any remediation ordered, I will only engage in the practice of medicine under the supervision of a practice monitor who will review a sample of my charts and report to the College on a regular basis.

One of the claimants suffered injury of a perforated bowel in 2009, and another a perforated ureter in 2010. Another claimant suffered a perforated bladder in 2007, and a fourth, whose claim is still under investigation, suffered internal bleeding.

None of the women were advised by the Hospital or administrators that there was any reason for concern about Dr. Frank’s complication rates or need for a practice monitor.

The CPSO’s Guidelines for College-Directed Supervision provides that, “The nature, level, frequency and duration of the supervision can vary significantly depending on the specific circumstances involved. Physicians may be supervised as they re-enter practice after an absence, during the transition to a new scope of practice, when relocating to Ontario from another jurisdiction, or as a result of competence concerns following an assessment or investigation.”

Ms. Dobson said that the only circumstance that would apply in this case is competence concerns following an assessment or investigation. The details of that investigation have not been made available to the claimants.

As of September 14, 2011, a further restriction was posted on the CPSO’s website relating to Dr. Frank prohibiting her from acting as most responsible physician (MRP) in any gynecological or obstetrical surgery:

As from September 14, 2011, the following is imposed as a term, condition and limitation on the certificate of registration held by Dr. Cathy Sheila Frank, in accordance with an undertaking and consent given by Dr. Frank to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario: 

 Effective immediately, Dr Frank's practice is restricted in the following ways:

(i)      She shall not practice in the area of gynecological or obstetrical surgery unless she is doing so as part of a Remediation Program pre-approved by the College and is supervised by a preceptor who is acting as MRP for all patients;

(ii)    She shall not apply for gynecological or obstetrical surgery privileges at any hospital whatsoever; and

(iii)   for further clarity, she shall not engage in the practice of medicine as the Most Responsible Physician (MRP) in respect of any obstetrical or gynecological patients,  at any hospital whatsoever.             

Dr. Frank may apply for courtesy privileges at a hospital, if required, as part of  her fertility clinic practice, on the condition that she remain in strict compliance with the restrictions set out at paragraph 7(a)(i) - 7(a)(iii) above during the exercise of said privileges.

The term "gynecological or obstetrical surgery" in this particular instance does not include the following procedures if completed as part of Dr. Frank's IVF practice:

                   (i)  intrauterine inseminations,

                  (ii)  oocyte retrievals; and/or

                  (iii) embryo transfers.

“Lorraine Kinninmont, the first of four women to start a lawsuit, first made a complaint to the CPSO,” said Ms. Dobson. Although the complaint was logged in 2009, following the September 2009 surgery, the CPSO has yet to advise Ms. Kinninmont of the disposition of the complaint.

Ms. Kinninmont said that she decided to go public, both with her complaint and the lawsuit, so that any other woman who may have been injured would know they are not the only one, and to encourage others to come forward.

For interview requests, or more information, contact:

Amanda Tadgell, Legate & Associates LLP