Ottawa psychiatrist who had patients run errands for her loses licence
By Andrew Seymour
April 13, 2017
An Ottawa psychiatrist who hired one patient as a private nurse and took advantage of others by having them pick up her eye medication and groceries has been found guilty of professional misconduct and agreed to never practise medicine again.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario said it found Dr. Susan Louise Roche’s “self-serving, selfish, disgraceful and unprofessional behaviour” included the hiring of one patient to be her own private nurse after an abdominal operation. Roche also inappropriately billed OHIP for family therapy instead of individual or group therapy to her own financial benefit, the college found.
Roche pleaded no contest to the allegations of professional misconduct and agreed to voluntarily surrender her licence. She also agreed she would never seek reinstatement in Ontario or anywhere else.
According to a statement of fact, the 68-year-old psychiatrist repeatedly crossed boundaries with the patient who became her nurse. The patient, a retired registered nurse who had a major depression and dissociative identity disorder, was paid $500 to stay with Roche and care for her 24 hours a day for a week in the fall of 2014. Roche became dissatisfied with the patient’s care, however, and started shouting and swearing at her, the college heard.
Roche continued complaining about the patient’s nursing during a January 2015 therapy session and told her she wouldn’t pay her the full amount she had promised, according to the disciplinary decision.
The college found that Roche continued to be verbally aggressive with the patient during a subsequent therapy session in February 2015. Roche later told the patient to stop attending group therapy, and told other members of the group she was absent because she had “regressed” and there was a parking issue.
When the patient terminated her relationship with Roche by sending her a registered letter, the doctor refused to accept it and then waited seven weeks to transfer her patient files despite receiving a signed consent, according to the college.
Prior to hiring her as a nurse, Roche had used a therapy session to ask the patient if she wanted to move to British Columbia with her and live as a tenant in a house Roche planned to buy there. The two had discussions about the move during subsequent therapy sessions, the college found, although Roche later rescinded the offer after the falling out.
According to the college, Roche’s treatment of the patient led to a serious relapse of her psychiatric disorder.
“Dr. Roche’s violations were serious, long-standing and multiple. They involved a patient who Dr. Roche knew, or ought to have known, was particularly vulnerable,” the college wrote in a disciplinary decision released in March.
The decision noted Roche also had other patients run errands for her, including picking up medication and groceries. She also shared patients’ medical information with other patients during their individual sessions.
The college found Roche ought to have known that non-clinical relationships with patients were off-limits and that taking advantage of patients for personal gain was unprofessional.
In a public reprimand, the college found Roche’s breaches of boundaries to be “frankly egregious and almost incomprehensible to a reasonable physician and profoundly destructive of public trust.”
Attempts to reach Roche were unsuccessful Thursday. An online search revealed an office on Cooper Street, although the phone number was no longer in service. A message to her Toronto lawyer wasn’t immediately returned.
According to the college, Roche received her certificate of registration authorizing independent practice in Ontario on June 28, 1989. She graduated from Dalhousie University in 1985, according to a profile on the college’s website.
In addition to resigning her license, Roche was also ordered to pay $5,500 in costs for her disciplinary hearing.