ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — A disciplinary tribunal has suspended a Labrador West medical doctor for six months after he was found guilty of professional misconduct.
The tribunal found Dr. Adekunle Owolabi guilty on Monday of all four counts of professional misconduct after four female patients accused him of making sexual comments, and of inappropriate hugging and kissing.
He must complete training on appropriate doctor-patient boundaries, and pay $75,000 in hearing costs related to the investigation and disciplinary process.
When he resumes practising, he must have a chaperone when seeing female patients for two years.
Owolabi has 30 days to appeal to the trial division of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.
His lawyer argued he should not be suspended for more than six months.
Paul Stokes told a disciplinary hearing Monday that Owolabi's technical skills as a doctor are not in question. He asked the tribunal to put inappropriate comments, hugging and kissing in context of far more serious possible sexual offences.
"This is a good physician,'' Stokes told the panel from the provincial College of Physicians and Surgeons, which confirmed the four convictions Monday.
Asked woman if she 'liked big ones' during Pap test
Four women accused Owolabi of misconduct ranging from sexual comments during a pelvic exam to inappropriate hugging and kissing.
Dr. Elizabeth Mate, who is leading the disciplinary tribunal, said Monday comments Owolabi made to one woman during a Pap test, asking if she "liked big ones or small ones,'' were "cavalier'' and "unprofessional.''
Lawyer Ruth Trask, representing the college, argued Monday for an eight-month suspension with a formal reprimand from the tribunal.
She said Owolabi should also complete training on doctor-patient boundaries and should have to have a chaperone for at least two years when seeing female patients in future. He has continued to practise in Labrador West with such a chaperone as the college process has played out.
Dr. Adekunle Williams Owolabi is shown in court in St. John's Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo: CP)
Stokes had said an eight-month suspension would be "excessive,'' and suggested instead three to six months. He also said there should be a definite end date to how long his client should require a chaperone to see female patients.
Owolabi had denied any wrongdoing during a six-day hearing earlier this year.
In each of the four separate complaints, Owolabi was found to have shown a lack of respect for his patients constituting professional misconduct.
Penalties range from a fine to suspension for the doctor, who graduated in 2000 as a general practitioner in Nigeria.
'A pattern of behaviour'
A decision on sanctioning could take several weeks.
"This is taken very seriously,'' Trask said, suggesting Owolabi has engaged in "a pattern of behaviour.''
Trask said there should also be signs in the waiting room so female patients know a chaperone is required.
Owolabi turned his face away from media cameras as he arrived at the hearing Monday, and showed little emotion as the findings were read.
At one point Owolabi sat with his forehead in his hand before Stokes spoke a few words to him.