The accusation a Sarnia dentist had an affair with a woman while she was his patient continued to be a hotly contested issue as a months-long regulatory discipline hearing finally wrapped up Monday.
Kevin Bacchus, a 51-year-old second-generation dentist who practiced in Sarnia and Wallaceburg, is facing 18 allegations levied by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario’s discipline committee including two counts of sexual abuse of a patient. Patients cannot give their consent to health professionals under provincial legislation, meaning any sort of sexual contact or a relationship is considered sexual abuse.
Bacchus has pleaded not guilty to all of the college’s charges, stemming from five separate investigations during the past three years, while also planning his appeal for an unrelated criminal conviction of aggravated assault. He was sentenced last month to two years of house arrest for stabbing a former patient in his driveway. The appeal is pending.
In the meantime, the college’s discipline committee has been hearing all five cases at the same time in a lengthy hearing that’s featured dozens of witnesses stretched across several months. The final witness was called in early April and, after lawyers on both sides handed over their written submissions, two days of oral arguments started Thursday and wrapped up Monday.
It was unclear as of press time when the panel may deliver its decision.
During the hearing’s final session on Monday, Bacchus’s lawyer, Jasmine Ghosn, reminded the hearing there are no records a woman with whom Bacchus admitted to having an affair in 2003 was his patient at the time.
“That argument fails. She was not a patient of Dr. Bacchus during their sexual relationship. That matter must be dismissed,” she said.
The hearing previously heard there are no records from before 2005 due to a burglary at his Wallaceburg office in 2010. Her record from ‘05 was on a re-care or recall form, but Bacchus had testified it was done that way because it’s cheaper than using a new patient file.
But college prosecutor Linda Rothstein said Monday that doesn’t make any sense as the woman’s exam at the time was free. She also noted that was the first time any of them had heard that explanation and she argued the excuse simply popped out of his mouth while he was on the stand.
“You should reject that as a highly unlikely explanation for that problem from Dr. Bacchus,” she told the discipline panel.
Bacchus also testified his late father and his former spouse, both dentists, may have performed dental work on the woman, but he didn’t. But Rothstein pointed out the accused testified he was the main dentist at the Wallaceburg office dating back to the 1990s.
The other sexual abuse of a patient charge is allegedly tied to a different woman in 2017. The names and identities of both women, along with all other patients in the five cases, are protected by a publication ban.
Bacchus has denied anything took place between himself and the woman – she has, too – and Ghosn pointed out Rothstein previously conceded that what her then-husband believed he walked in on after a Christmas party wasn’t enough evidence to prove something sexual took place.
Rothstein did point out last week there was an alleged physical confrontation between the two longtime friends that otherwise has no explanation.
But Ghosn argued Monday the woman didn’t testify at the hearing.
“That’s a very strong opportunity for cross-examination, which the college wants Dr. Bacchus to be deprived of,” she said.
She pointed out the prosecution said little during their final submissions last week about a separate alleged incident where Bacchus is accused of massaging a co-worker’s neck at one of the offices.
“The panel should take notice of that,” she said of the brevity.
Ghosn spent time Monday arguing against various allegations tied to billing, record-keeping, insurance claims and overprescribing opioids. Following Rothstein’s reply, the discipline committee received independent legal advice before the hearing concluded and it started deliberating.
If a dentist is found guilty of allegations by the discipline committee, penalties can include remediation, restrictions, suspension, revocation of license, fines up to $35,000, or any combination of those punishments.
Bacchus still has his licence while the allegations are outstanding and, despite recently selling his practices, wants to continue practicing part-time. He previously was found guilty in 2013 on seven college charges and was fined $5,000, suspended six months, reprimanded, had to take courses and had his practice monitored for two years.
THE COLLEGE’S ALLEGATIONS
The college’s 18 allegations, arising from five separate investigations, include:
- Four counts of disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unethical conduct
- Two counts of sexual abuse of a patient
- Two counts of signing a certificate, report or similar document that contains a false, misleading or improper statements
- Two counts of submitting a false or misleading account or charge
- Two counts of abuse of a patient
- Charging excessive or unreasonable fees
- Contravening a standard of practice or failing to maintain the standards of practice of the profession
- Failing to keep records as required by the regulations
- Prescribing, dispensing or selling a drug for an improper purpose, or inappropriately using authority to prescribe
- Recommending or providing an unnecessary dental service
- Treatment without consent