29 July 2015

Mediation and the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario - will it work for everyone?

Following is my email response to a suggestion that I  might like to try mediation to resolve the problem I had with my previous family doctor. See email below mine for copy of that email from the Human Rights Tribunal, received today, July 29, 2015.

In April, 2015, I submitted an application to have the case heard by the tribunal. I had already had a taste of the kind of response I was likely to get from the doctor in question, from having laid a complaint about him with the CPSO (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario). I am concerned that no one is actually looking at the Application I submitted, or taking time to compare that with the Response the doctor sent to that. As with emails sent to the Registrar of the HRT, it is more likely that a customer service rep reads my response and decides what to do with it – file it or toss it, or hand it to someone else to deal with, than it actually gets into the hands of the individual whose name is on it .

----- Original Message -----
From: Sue McPherson
To: Brennenstuhl, Keith (MAG)
Sent: Wednesday, July 29, 2015 4:58 PM
Subject: Fw: Human rights Application ----------  Susan McPherson v. ----------

Dear Mr Brennenstuhl,

Tell me this: how am I supposed to respond to the lies and distortions of truth he tells in his Response, that he isn't required to show evidence for? Am I just supposed to tell my "interpretation" in my Reply? Am I allowed only to add new facts if I can back them up with evidence? What is this - a game of he says, she shows evidence of? And if he says more than what she has evidence of, he wins?

You would have to convince me that anything could possibly be accomplished through mediation in this situation before I would agree to it. So far, the doctor hasn't admitted to any wrongdoing or poor judgement in my attempts to have this resolved, here or elsewhere, so I just don't see how mediation can help.

When I looked it up online, briefly, I saw that mediation was useful in cases where, for instance, a young person had committed a minor crime against a homeowner, and once found guilty, legally, the process of mediation could begin. That, and cases where married couples are divorcing, and I imagine, for the sake of the children, mediation is offered in order to ease the path for future tolerance of their situation, in which due to the children, their paths might well cross occasionally. Neither of those scenarios fit this one. The doctor has not admitted to anything, and in fact is blaming me for behaviour that he has invented, or must be imagining (and wishing to hold me accountable for), such as shouting at him and his staff.

We have no mutual interests that would require our paths to cross again, since my health and well-being is obviously not one of his, and he appears to have no desire to educate himself in matters of ageing, ageism, and discrimination on the grounds of gender and family status, from the looks of things.

I can see how for the doctor to choose mediation would act in his favour, as he can only benefit from presenting himself as willing and cooperative, for starters, and then, not having admitted to any of the things he has done, he has an advantage right from the start. It could only lead to me having to defend myself against accusations he makes (which he has already started to do) for which he doesn't have to present evidence, as he is a doctor, and I am only an older woman living alone without family beside me to grant me credibility.

No, mediation isn't going to work, unless something really changes in a hurry; for instance, the doctor admits to lying about me and being disrespectful, and to distorting incidents that happened and trivializing my concerns, and agrees to attend courses and programs that hopefully would contribute to making him a better doctor to people in similar circumstances as me.

Sue McPherson

----- Original Message -----
From: Brennenstuhl, Keith (MAG)
To: s.a.mcpherson@sympatico.ca
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2015 12:05 PM
Subject: Human rights Application ------------- Susan McPherson v. ----------

Ms. McPherson,

In reviewing this file I note from the Response that the respondent has agreed to try mediation to resolve your Application. In your Application, you have not indicated a willingness to try mediation. Mediation is one of the ways the Tribunal tries to resolve disputes and it is highly recommended by the Tribunal. It is a less formal process than a hearing. If mediation does not settle all the issues between the parties, a hearing will take place at a later date. Mediation can only happen if both parties agree to it. Please let me know by return email if you are willing to try mediation. Thank-you.

Keith Brennenstuhl

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

16 July 2015

Doctors and the CPSO - women growing older

According to the latest letter I have received from the CPSO, my case is now going under review, to see if they think it is worth taking to the committee or will be dismissed.  I have written many letters to them over the last year, responding to questions and letters from them with details about the doctor  - my family doctor, that I laid the complaint about.

Usually, when patients lay a complaint, it is because something of great magnitude has happened – a loved one has died while in their care, or there has been sexual abuse, or outrageous acts of unprofessional or negligent behaviour. I didn’t see my experience as any of those, at least not until the last official appointment with that family doctor, in April, a year ago.

Before then, I had approached a local organization, the London and District Academy of Medicine, LDAM, to help resolve problems I had had with the doctor in question, who had been my family doctor for about a year and a half. I had thought that, as a doctor opening a new practice, that it was stressful and needed time to adjust to, and so thought his attitude and ways of communicating, as well as organizational methods, etc, would improve over time. However, as time went on, I came to realize he wasn’t improving. In fact, his attitude and ways of conducting his practice were getting worse. Moreover, it was obvious he didn’t want me as a patient, in fact, he asked me to find a new doctor, something I was reluctant to do due to the difficulty in finding one in the first place. Surely, a doctor should be able to do his job, treating patients that come to him, without having personal biases interfere.

Recently, I have come to think that he was treating me as a walk-in patient, not as one of his registered patients. Having to go to his office every three months to have prescriptions renewed, by hand, not on the form, at the risk of errors being made, was just one example of that. Although the pharmacy provided a form that had the items on it to be checked off, he required me come in so he could do it by hand, which itself resulted in the occasional mistake and further consultations with the pharmacy, and another trip to the doctor to sort it out.

There came to be an accumulation of instances by him of unprofessionalism, including lack of attention to the details of making referrals, discussing reports, prescribing medications, demeaning comments, trivializing my health concerns and in general, offering a lack of quality time in assessing what treatment I needed - five minutes or so, but not enough. At the end of the my time with the doctor as his patient, however, I felt I had been subjected to more than what I should have had to put up with, and in a manner that was more than disrespectful. It was an attack on me as a human being - as a woman, an older person, and as a single person living in a separate city from other family members.

It was as though he had no time for me. And sometimes, it seemed as though some things that happened that were harmful to my health and sense of wellbeing were done on purpose. Possibly what happened to me was not any worse than how many long-term Canadian doctors are towards their ageing patients, at least the ones they see as being a burden on the system.

It was a year ago that I laid the complaint against my previous family doctor. CPSO stands for College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. For the most part the CPSO seems to be an organization for the benefit of the doctors, so having one’s complaint dealt with in a serious manner is no easy matter. I wrote on my blog almost a year ago about my first encounter with the ‘investigator’ at CPSO. See ‘CPSO complaints against Ontario doctors’. More recently, not having much faith left that the second assigned CPSO investigator was addressing my concerns objectively, and having come to see what happened in terms of discrimination and not only as bullying, abuse and lack of attention to the administrative aspects of his practice I decided to open a case of discrimination against the doctor with the Human Rights Commission of Ontario. See on my blog, ‘Health care among single, older women – a case of discrimination for OHRT’.

A while back I also founded a discussion list on Yahoo - Ageism in Canada's health care system. Anyone wishing to join would be welcome, to discuss issues of concern, whether for the young-old at home, or in hospital, or the old-old, in long term care homes.

The subject of health care among those growing older is so wide I decided to start with my own experience in this blog piece and see where it leads. Twenty-five years ago I studied ageing while at Western University (was UWO), and wrote several essays and research papers as well as conducting interviews with older people – mainly of close to retirement age, about their experiences and thoughts on the subject. Several of these are on my website – the Diversity in Retirement website.

I started my first website with a research essay about my grandmother, Gertrude McPherson, which also was about aging, actually about the life cycle and how women (she was born in 1882) were able to contribute to society and achieve fulfilment over the course of their lives. And of course, for many, that meant marrying and having children. Along the way she became a missionary (in Hong Kong), an artist and art teacher, was married and raised three daughters, and wrote a book, The Grey Cottage, hence the title of my new photo essay, adapted from the original 2001 edition, Gertrude McPherson and the Grey Cottage.

My interest in aging and life cycle development started while at Western University, where I went many years after graduating from high school in Woodstock, Ontario. Taking courses on sex and gender, and aging and the life cycle in Sociology, while I was going through my own midlife changes put me on the path I would take, researching these areas of study and more. No career came of it, though I started the websites and have continued to do research.

List of resources

Ageism in Canada's health care system
Yahoo discussion group
founded by Sue McPherson
Feb 25, 2015

Baby boomers, longevity, and health care
Sue’s Views on the News
April 9, 2012

CPSO complaints against Ontario doctors
Sue’s Views on the News
July 30, 2014

Diversity in Retirement website
Sue McPherson
since 2004

Gertrude McPherson and the Grey Cottage
photo essay by Sue McPherson
adapted 2015 from 2001 essay

Healthcare: Technology is a bigger cost driver than demography
By Julia Belluz
February 10, 2012

Health care among single, older women – a case of discrimination for OHRT
Sue’s Views on the News
April 12, 2015