2018-02-06 from nationalpost.com

Doctors across Canada are getting themselves into trouble by swearing at, intimidating and bullying each other both online and in person. But while the reputation of the medical profession takes a beating, no one is talking about the hidden victims of physician bullying: patients.

After last year’s failed fee negotiations in Ontario, the College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) started investigating 13 doctors over allegations of “unprofessional communication.” What members of the medical profession call “lacking professionalism” or “disruptive” — others might describe as bullying. The National Post spoke to physicians across the country about their experiences. Identifying details have been changed because the physicians fear professional repercussions, or difficulty obtaining care for their patients and their families.

In small communities, doctors must rely on the professionalism and, at times, good will of physicians in larger centres to help them manage sick patients. This leaves doctors less willing to rock the boat for their vulnerable patients. Though some physicians feel that reporting bullying might put an end to it, others argue against it.

When an emergency physician in a rural Ontario community sought a doctor in a larger hospital to take a patient needing an urgent CT scan, he was asked how he planned to vote in an upcoming Ontario Medical Association referendum. He gave the answer he believed the consulting physician was looking for and she allowed the transfer to occur.

The physician said he did not report the bullying to the CPSO, the regulatory authority for physicians in Ontario, because he feared reprisals against his patients in the future.

One small city physician in another province said she did not report a colleague’s egregious bullying because she knows him well — they are both members of a small community. She also fears repercussions for her patients and her family, and realizes the tremendous stress that a college complaint could bring.

“We tread lightly, we cower, we fear. And then when it does it happen, our defence is to minimize it, make excuses and carry on even though it adds to our burden, our mental overload and, again, the culture continues,” she said.

Another doctor said he was confronted about an unpopular comment he made in the media during his daughter’s family doctor appointment.

“What the hell were you thinking?” he says the family doctor demanded in front of the child. The father fears he damaged his family’s medical care by taking a public stance on an issue, and would not risk further damage by allowing his name to be published in this article.

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