James Hanley, psychiatrist, license revoked for sexual misconduct in 2 provinces, but Alberta issues him another

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CBC News
Psychiatrist who lost licence in N.B., NL, practising in Alberta
Dr. James Hanley, who admitted having sex with patient, working at CFB Cold Lake
By Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon
December 2, 2014

James Hanley psychiatrist psychsearch.netA psychiatrist who was stripped of his medical licences in both New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador in 2007 after he admitted to having sex with a patient is now practising in Alberta, CBC News has learned.

Dr. James Bernard Hanley, 72, who used to work with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in Oromocoto, N.B., is working at 4 Wing CFB Cold Lake, confirmed Lt. Mathew Strong.

He declined to discuss the nature of Hanley’s work and national military officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, the provincial medical regulatory body, granted Hanley a licence earlier this year with some conditions attached, said registrar Dr. Trevor Theman.

Hanley must only see patients when another regulated health professional is present in the clinic or hospital setting, and must work only in a multi-physician or multi-disciplinary work setting, he said.

Those conditions are listed on the college’s website and Hanley would be required to provide that information to a patient, if requested, said Theman.

He declined to discuss why the college attached conditions to Hanley’s permit to practise. “I can’t tell you anything about that,” he said, citing privacy reasons under the Health Professions Act of Alberta.

Hanley could not be reached on Tuesday for comment.

Theman did say there is normally “extensive information sharing” between jurisdictions.

A doctor having his or her licence revoked in one province, however, does not preclude the individual being granted a licence in another province, he said.

“It would not be common, for sure,” said Theman. “So the question would be, ‘What was the situation that led to the individual having his or her licence revoked?’ And depending on what that was all about, what has happened in that physician’s life, or career, or education, or health that would now make it reasonable to consider licensing that individual?

“And if that was a reasonable consideration, what sort of conditions or restrictions would make it safe for the public for that individual to practise in our jurisdiction?”

Protection of the public is the college’s “first consideration,” said Theman.

“We would not let somebody practise unless we thought it was safe to do so, and we would need compelling evidence with respect to somebody who had lost his or her licence that something had changed to make us believe that now, whatever the conditions were that led to loss of licensure, had been addressed and that we could put conditions or restrictions in place to ensure safe practice,” he said.

New Brunswick college never contacted

But Dr. Ed Schollenberg, the registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick, says he was never contacted by his Alberta counterparts for information about Hanley.

“It’s not the way things are supposed to work,” said Schollenberg. “Standard procedure would be always to get information from any place a physician was previously licensed and if there was any negative information, [there] would almost always be request for clarification, further information,” he said.

If he had been contacted by Alberta officials, Schollenberg says he would have told them that Hanley’s New Brunswick licence remains revoked and that “we had every reason to believe that it was not an isolated matter that had gotten him in trouble in the first place.”

Schollenberg says he heard from a second woman in 2007, who had made an allegation against Hanley in Newfoundland and Labrador, but who subsequently decided not to pursue a formal complaint.

“In both cases the story was similar in the sense that it was not some accidental lapse of judgment but in fact a very contrived situation where he took advantage of his patients,” he said.

“That’s as low as it goes for physicians, it’s as low as it goes for psychiatrists and in many circumstances, when a psychiatrist crosses that line, people don’t think they should be entitled to practise medicine.”

Background provides context

Doctors who run into difficulties in one province sometimes move to another province to try to avoid them, said Schollenberg.

“Right now, when a school kid transfers from one province to another, more information passes than when a doctor does,” he said.

“Granted, a lot of these are minor matters but what if they’re not? What if they’re, say, a series of sexual assaults, but they’ve never been proven, they’re just allegations? Well, if they start up again in another province, there’s fire under that smoke, but unfortunately, what happens and has happened in the past, when an issue arises, they see it as a new issue, they don’t see it as a fifth complaint, they see it as a first.”

Although there was an attempt by the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada a few years ago to create a national standard about what information should be shared between provinces, Schollenberg says it hasn’t really helped.

The way it’s worded allows the provincial agency that’s issuing the certificate or professional conduct to decide what information to pass along, based on whether it thinks it could represent ongoing misconduct, he said.

“We personally disagree with it. We pass on everything we have, no matter what,” said Schollenberg.

“There’s no doubt these are pretty isolated issues, they don’t happen very often, but when they do happen, sometimes bad things occur.”

There has been some discussion about creating a national database showing where problems have occurred, much like the system used in the United States, said Schollenberg.

He contends a good first step would be creating a way to easily check where a doctor has been licensed, without having to rely on the doctor to provide that information.

Case dates back to 2005

In 2005, a woman from near St. John’s filed a complaint against Hanley with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador​.

Kathleen Wiseman, who lived on Bell Island in Conception Bay, said Hanley had sex with her repeatedly while she was under his care.

Wiseman had been Hanley’s patient since 1987, being treated for depression and the consequences of abuse she had suffered, but their relationship became sexual in 2003, she said.

Hanley promptly closed his office in St. John’s and relocated to New Brunswick, where he also held a licence.

Although Hanley had agreed not to practise medicine, he took a job treating military personnel at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

Despite Hanley’s admission to having a relationship with a patient he was treating, military officials told CBC News in 2006 they were dealing with a severe shortage of psychiatrists to deal with troops returning from combat in Afghanistan and needed him too badly to let him go.

In March 2007, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador revoked his licence and the New Brunswick college eventually followed suit.

Hanley told a tribunal that his judgment was clouded during the period he was having sex with Wiseman due to extreme fatigue and overworking.

At the time, Cmdr. Dale Romeo, acting director of health services delivery with the Department of National Defence, said the military was no longer keen to keep Hanley at CFB Gagetown.

​Hanley’s contract with the military, by coincidence, expired around that time.

In 2011, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador ruled Hanley could be licensed again.

It was done on the condition he agree not to see patients in private. Hanley said he planned to teach and consult.

James Hanley