'Effective leadership does not divide its membership': Ontario doctor speaks out against regulatory abuse

Ontario physician who upheld private confidential patient records describes barriers being created by iron-fisted regulators in preventing individualized patient-centered care throughout COVID-19 response.

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Dr. Crystal Luchkiw has been suspended from practicing medicine in Ontario after her regulatory body launched an investigation against her, based on hunches and suspicion.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) seeks further disciplinary action against Luchkiw in what some are referring to as a witch hunt of any physician who raises questions or concerns around the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Luchkiw was accused of not checking temperatures of her patients and one of her staff remained maskless in late 2021 while she practiced as a family and palliative care doctor working at the local hospital and her own private clinic.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) subsequently launched an investigation against her which she was eventually cleared of by both the Ministry of Labour and the CPSO.

Six days later, however, the CPSO launched another investigation against Luchkiw in which she alleges that the Chief of Staff at her hospital expressed concern that she had written a vaccine exemption for an immunocompromised patient.

“There was no proof of this exemption,” Luchkiw asserts, stating this secondary investigation is based on assumptions.

Shortly thereafter, nurse agents from the CPSO confronted Luchkiw at her practice during working hours, attempting to raid and seize her private and confidential patient medical records. She then retained lawyer Michael Alexander who is acting on behalf of Luchkiw and other Ontario physicians facing similar accusations.

“I have a duty and obligation to maintain confidentiality and privacy for my patients and that was completely violated that day and every day since then,” says Luchkiw.

She describes the investigation as manipulative and deceitful after a decorative hand towel was photographed by the CPSO agents. It is being used as evidence against her to justify the probe into her practice, all while the stack of paper towels beside the hand towel was ignored.

“The duty of a physician is not just to comply with whatever whim the college has for an investigation against us. We have a fiduciary duty to our patients first and foremost. Trying to uphold that and balance that with the risk of challenging the college has been impossible.”

Luchkiw regrets that doctors like herself have been removed from providing patient-centred care.

“Since my suspension [my patients] have not had any kind of respectful and compassionate care. They’re actually treated horribly because I’m their doctor,” she continues. “My approach is compassion and ethics first and foremost but it’s been completely dismantled because of the college’s overt threats.”

“Individualized patient-centred care is the cornerstone of practicing medicine,” Luchkiw reiterates. “You cannot force physicians to remove the fundamental first principles of medical practice without causing enormous amounts of harm, far more than if we had of provided some kind of balanced protection against an infectious pathogen.”

In moving forward with the CPSO, Luchkiw hopes that the college will reign in their abusive, authoritarian iron fist and take a pause to reflect on their own limitations.

“No one wins when there’s not honesty, accountability, and transparency.”

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