Fort Chip Doctor Still Under Scrutiny
SRJ Staff 24.AUG.07
Dr John O’Connor appeared in person before the registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) last Friday morning to defend himself once again against charges from Health Canada. The August 17 hearing took place in Edmonton. Following that Dr. O ‘Conner returned to Fort Chipewyan to serve his patients.
After being interviewed by the registrar of CPSA he is now awaiting the final word on the matter.
According to O’Connor, who made public his concerns of higher than normal incidences of cancers and other diseases in Fort Chipewyan, stands accused by Health Canada of “causing undue alarm” as well as “blocking access to data” in his patient files regarding his findings to Alberta Health and Wellness.
O’Connor told the Slave River Journal he has found “clusters of diseases” in his patients in Fort Chip in much greater numbers than in his much larger patient population in Fort McMurray.
“Nowhere do you hear the numbers as seen in Fort Chip,” he said.
Although he did say his concern is more and more that the diseases derive from industrial activity in the oil sands upstream, O’Connor said he is not accusing anyone, suggesting the problems could also stem from pulp mill industry pollution upriver or the prevalence of radioactive materials in the area.
“The government has to stand up and take action on this to prove or disprove that there is a problem,” he said.
O’Connor told The Journal he has not blocked access to patient files. In fact he has no jurisdiction over them. He said it is the nursing staff in Fort Chipewyan who have refused Alberta Health because they feel all information in patient files is confidential and “issues of privacy” prevent them from giving out information to unknown persons without patient consent.
“It is absolutely not true that Dr. O’Connor has blocked access to the files,” stated Georg MacDonald, the manager of the nursing station. She said O’Connor “does not have the power to grant access – he is only a visiting physician.”
“The files are the property of the Nunee Health Board and I am in charge of them. It’s me that’s blocking access.”
She said she has asked Alberta Health for a ruling as to the legal rights they might have to access the medical files and has never been given a proper answer.
MacDonald, who has been the manager of the nursing station for a year and a half, said “Alberta Health has never responded to the question appropriately.”
“I am very frustrated. I want this study to go ahead,” she stated. “They’ve just never done anything.”