Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Allegations were first brought forward to Marko Duic’s employers in early 2018 on behalf of eight female physicians.handout/Handout

A health review board has ruled that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario adequately investigated allegations of gender discrimination and improper billing against Marko Duic, who once headed the emergency department at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont.

The college’s investigative committee had determined that the allegations were unfounded, a ruling that employment lawyer Danny Kastner asked the Health Professions Appeal and Review Board (HPARB) to look into. Mr. Kastner first brought the allegations forward to Dr. Duic’s employers in early 2018 on behalf of eight female physicians.

Health board weighs whether Ontario physicians college adequately investigated gender-discrimination allegations

The allegations were the subject of a 2018 Globe and Mail investigation, involving 18 sources who had worked with Dr. Duic. They alleged that when he was chief of the emergency department at St. Joseph’s Hospital and later Southlake, a 16-year period, he discriminated against women in his hiring and training decisions as well as his comments.

Some of these sources also said he encouraged doctors in his department to overuse Ministry of Transportation and psychiatric forms to increase their income. The Globe did not name many of the sources because they feared repercussions to their careers.

Dr. Duic resigned as chief of Southlake’s emergency department within a couple of months after the publication of The Globe’s investigation. Southlake conducted an internal investigation, which concluded that the hiring processes at the hospital allowed for “unconscious bias” and made recommendations to increase transparency in hiring. Dr. Duic remains a physician in the emergency department.

Ontario emergency room chief who hired no women for 16 years resigns amid discrimination probe

Scrubbed: Ontario emergency room chief faces questions about failing to hire any female doctors in 16 years

Mr. Kastner, a lawyer representing a group of eight female physicians, filed a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) against Dr. Duic in 2019.

In its investigation, a CPSO committee interviewed Dr. Duic, but did not interview any of the 13 witnesses provided by Mr. Kastner. HPARB ruled in late November that it was “unlikely that any information provided by those witnesses would have changed the outcome of the committee decision.”

The college had hired an independent assessor to review 25 patient charts that involved psychiatric forms filled out by Dr. Duic and four charts involving Ministry of Transportation (MTO) forms. The assessor found that all MTO forms were appropriate but said that he wouldn’t have filled out the psychiatric forms in six of the cases. Mr. Kastner had argued the assessor’s review was too limited.

While the HPARB found that the college’s investigation was adequate, it challenged the CPSO’s interpretation of jurisdiction. The college contended hiring and human-rights complaints were outside its jurisdiction, but the health review board ruled that the college “does have jurisdiction to consider these issues.” Nonetheless, the board felt the CPSO’s investigation into these issues was adequate.

Mr. Kastner said the finding that “the CPSO was wrong in its jurisdiction – the CPSO does have the power and is in fact required to investigate complaints of discrimination between its members” is one that has “significant implications for health-professional regulators.”

Mr. Kastner has filed a request with the Ontario Divisional Court to conduct a judicial review into the HPARB decision.

“We don’t think that an investigation where the only witness you speak to is a respondent themselves could ever reasonably constitute an adequate investigation,” Mr. Kastner said.

Both Southlake hospital and Dr. Duic did not respond to a request for comment.

In the time after Dr. Duic left his post at St. Joseph’s in 2011, the hospital went from having zero female physicians in its emergency department to 13, with three more expected to join in the new year. Since the publication of The Globe investigation in 2018, the Southlake emergency department has added two female physicians, whereas it had none before.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

Follow topics related to this article:

Check Following for new articles