Employment & Labour

Cardiologist suing Halifax health authority for $10.4 M

A cardiologist represented by Toronto employment lawyer Michael Wright is seeking $10.4 million in damages after the withdrawal of her privileges, the Halifax Chronicle Herald reports.

Health researcher Dr. Gabrielle Horne who saw her career “disappear” more than a decade ago is suing Capital Health, now the Nova Scotia Health Authority, according to the newspaper article.

A judge and jury trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court is underway in Halifax, expected to continue through mid-June.

According to the news story, the lawsuit launched because of the damage caused to Horne’s career when some of her hospital privileges were withdrawn between 2002 and 2006, “effectively leading to the closure of her research program.”

Horne, who studies aortic aneurysms, is also suing the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre, the Department of Medicine at QEII, Dr. Blair O’Neill, former head of the cardiology division, and John Malcom, former CEO of Capital Health.

Wright, of Wright Henry LLP, previously told the Chronicle Herald he wants to “put her back in the position she would have been in before this happened.

“She was recruited to come to Capital Health with the understanding she’d do research. They had an obligation to ensure that happened,” he told the newspaper.

In opening remarks at the trial, Wright outlined the researcher’s credentials and awards leading to her recruitment in 1998, the Herald article reports.

When she was hired, Horne was to spend 60 per cent of her time on research, 30 per cent on patient care and 10 per cent on teaching at Dalhousie University. Wright told the court that in 2002, her hospital privileges were restricted over concerns about patient safety so she couldn’t work in the clinics where she found her research subjects.

“If these concerns were so serious . . . how is it that she could continue to treat very sick heart patients and train tomorrow's doctors?” Wright asked the court.

After four years her privileges were reinstated, and Capital Health stated the restriction had been a procedural error, the Herald reports. The employer also claimed Horne wasn’t friendly or collegial with staff.

“Research is her passion,” Wright told the court. “To improve the lives of many people, not just the patients she sees. But now she’s seen as not a good risk.”

Horne's compensation was reduced by $582,000, Wright said, and she spent $167,500 on legal fees over four years in trying to get her privileges reinstated, the article says.

“In addition to punitive and other damages totalling $1.3 million, Horne is seeking $8.2 million to fund the recommencement of her research—a sum Wright noted would largely go back to the health authority for research facilities, staff and equipment,” the article states.

Lawyers for the defendants reserved their opening remarks until after the plaintiff’s evidence has been presented, according to the report.

None of the evidence has been proven in court.

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