NEWS

Labrador doctor facing allegations of sexual misconduct

07/27/2015 04:23 EDT | Updated 07/26/2016 05:59 EDT
A medical doctor in Labrador West is facing allegations of misconduct, and must be chaperoned when treating female patients while an investigation into his behaviour is carried out.

Two patients, Cayla Misurka and Arlene Johnson, are speaking publicly about what they say were were unsolicited sexual advances and inappropriate comments by Dr. Adekunle Williams Owolabi.

In one case, Owolabi is alleged to have told a patient that she had a "beautiful c--t," while in the other, he is alleged to have made inappropriate advances and comments. 

Each woman has made formal complaints to both the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Misurka alleges that Owolabi is unfit to be a doctor.

"Clearly he is not … performing the way that a doctor should," Misurka said in an interview with CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

"It's not appropriate for him to treat his patients the way that he is. And I really don't think that he needs to be here." 

No criminal charges have been laid against Owolabi, who operates a fee-for-service practice at the Labrador West Health Centre, and the college confirmed it is investigating the complaints.

In April, Owolabi agreed to be chaperoned when treating female patients, according to a statement from Labrador Grenfell Health.

Chief executive Tony Wakeham said the health authority is taking the allegations very seriously and will await the outcome of the investigation before taking any further action. 

Shocked and disgusted

Misurka alleges Owolabi asked to kiss her, pressed his face against hers, put his arm around her in a suggestive way, and said he had a "crush" on her during a Jan. 5 appointment to treat a back injury.

"I was just completely shocked," said Misurka, 26.

She said the doctor repeatedly tried to stop her from leaving, and kept apologizing.

The alleged incident with Johnson occurred in March 2014, just weeks after Owolabi arrived in western Labrador. 

The 45-year-old teacher says she went to see Owolabi for a Pap smear, which is a screening test for cervical cancer that requires a vaginal speculum to be inserted inside the patient.

Johnson said Owolabi asked if she wanted a "big one" before the exam begun, which she brushed off as an off-colour joke about the speculum.

But after the exam was completed, she alleges that Owolabi embraced her tightly and whispered the following into her ear: "You have a beautiful c--t. Does your husband tell you this?"

Johnson said she was shocked and disgusted.

"I just kind of shut down, my mind was racing, and all I could think is I need to get out of this office," said Johnson.

Complaints before medical college

Misurka said she stormed out of Owolabi's office and went straight to the RNC, where she gave a statement to an officer.

She also filed a complaint with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, which regulates the province's physicians.

Johnson said it took her almost a year to tell her story to the police, because she felt embarrassed.

She felt obligated to speak out, but said it wasn't easy.

'I know as a 45-year-old professional woman, I felt afraid and ashamed and embarrassed to come forward and say something, because it just seems wrong," she said, adding that she feels Owolabi "crossed the line."

A persistent doctor shortage

Labrador West includes the isolated mining towns of Labrador City and Wabush, which have a population of less than 10,000 residents and is located near the border with Quebec.

The area has a chronic shortage of doctors.

Labrador City Mayor Karen Oldford said there is widespread concern in the community.

"A lot of people are very dismayed that this could be happening and, I guess, that there is no other avenue for anybody to deal with it," she said.

"They want a more expeditious outcome to this."

Doctor, lawyer not commenting

According to the college's website, Owolabi is a general practitioner who graduated in 2000 from Obafemi Awolowo University in Ife, Nigeria.

CBC News has tried to contact Owolabi, but he has not returned calls. His St. John's-based lawyer, Erin Breen, said he will not be commenting at this time.

Owolabi previously worked in Happy Valley-Goose Bay before moving his practice to Labrador West in early 2014.

His account on the professional LinkedIn social network states that he worked at health centres in the Virgin Islands and Grenada.

Frustrated by lack of action

Meanwhile, Misurka posted a detailed account of her alleged encounter with Owolabi on her Facebook page, and is speaking publicly because she said she doesn't want anyone else to be victimized.

She's also encouraging any other patients who may have experienced inappropriate behaviour to come forward.

​Misurka is frustrated at the length of time it's taking to investigate the matter.

"If this had happened to anybody else and it had been worse, I honestly would have felt so horrible for not warning anybody about it," she said.

MORE:cbcNews