A three-person tribunal established by the provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons found Dr. Adekunle Owolabi guilty Monday of four counts of professional misconduct after a six-day hearing earlier this year.
Four female patients had accused the Nigeria-trained doctor of making sexual comments, and of inappropriate hugging and kissing.
To resume his general practice, Adekunle must take a course on appropriate doctor-patient boundaries. He was also ordered to pay $75,000 in costs related to the investigation and disciplinary process.
In each of the four separate complaints, Owolabi was found to have shown a lack of respect for the dignity and privacy of his patients, constituting professional misconduct.
He has 30 days to appeal the penalties to the trial division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
“He’s very disappointed,” his lawyer Paul Stokes said after Owolabi left without comment Monday. “But he understands the reasoning of the panel.”
Stokes said his client has not yet decided on whether to appeal but looks forward “to following up with their penalties and getting back to work as soon as he possibly can.”
Owolabi had continued to practise in Labrador West, voluntarily using a chaperone for female patients, as the disciplinary process played out.
Dr. Elizabeth Mate led the tribunal. Reading from its decision, she said comments Owolabi made to one complainant during a 2014 Pap test, asking if she “liked big ones or small ones,” were “cavalier” and “unprofessional.”
Mate found that Owolabi’s steadfast denials of wrongdoing were “self-serving.” Moreover, she described as “baseless” his counter-accusations against another patient whom he called “mischievous” and “a pathological liar.”
Lawyer Ruth Trask, representing the college, had argued Monday for an eight-month suspension with a formal reprimand from the tribunal.
“This is taken very seriously,” she said of the accusations, suggesting Owolabi had “a pattern of behaviour.”
Stokes responded in Owolabi’s defence that eight months would be “excessive.” He proposed a suspension of three to six months, and stressed that his client’s technical skills as a doctor were not in question.
Stokes asked the tribunal to put inappropriate comments, hugging and kissing in the context of far more serious possible sexual offences.
“This is a good physician,” he told the panel at Monday’s sanctioning hearing.
Owolabi turned his face away from media cameras as he arrived, and showed little emotion as the findings were read. At one point, he sat with his forehead in his hand before Stokes spoke a few words to him.
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