Dentist’s staffer to discipline hearing: I saw nothing inappropriate at work

A former co-worker of a Sarnia dentist facing a long list of charges from Ontario’s regulator including unprofessional or unethical conduct and sexual abuse of a patient says she never saw him cross professional boundaries at work.

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A former co-worker of a Sarnia dentist facing a long list of charges from Ontario’s regulator including unprofessional or unethical conduct and sexual abuse of a patient says she never saw him cross professional boundaries at work.

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Kevin Bacchus, 51, a second-generation dentist who is expected to be sentenced soon for a separate aggravated assault criminal conviction, has pleaded not guilty to 18 allegations levied by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario’s discipline committee.

As a hearing that’s stretched over months continued Monday, the ex-colleague was asked by Bacchus’s lawyer, Jasmine Ghosn, if she ever experienced Bacchus inappropriately cross professional boundaries.

“Inappropriate? Never,” she responded.

The woman can’t be named as a publication ban covers the identity of all patients and staff as well. But she was asked if she ever saw Bacchus act inappropriately toward any other employees.

“Never observed. No,” she said.

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Bacchus did previously admit to having an affair with a woman, but said it was before she became his patient based on records. However, she recalled getting treated by him earlier than the records show.

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 (sexual abuse has a different meaning under provincial legislation for health professionals as patients cannot give consent)
  • Two counts of signed a certificate, report or similar document that contained a false, misleading or improper statement
  • Two counts of submitted a false or misleading account or charge
  • Two counts of abuse of a patient
  • Charged excessive or unreasonable fees
  • Contravened a standard of practice or failed to maintain standards of practice of the profession
  • Failed to keep records as required by regulations
  • Prescribed, dispensed or sold a drug for an improper purpose, or inappropriately used authority to prescribe
  • Recommended or provided an unnecessary dental service
  • Treated without consent

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The college called its evidence in previous months and Bacchus testified during the hearing’s previous four full-day sessions this month. As the hearing continued Monday, two of Bacchus’s patients also took the stand.

One of the patients was asked extensively about a staff party at the Sarnia bar Two Amigos in November 2017. The event was also featured in Bacchus’s five-day criminal trial last year, though this patient wasn’t called to testify.

The patient recalled socializing with Bacchus and his staff and intending to go back with some of them to a post-bar house party before seeing an altercation on the front lawn and deciding to go home.

During cross-examination, the patient said Bacchus invited him out to dinner last month, which was a bit unusual as they haven’t been close in recent years, and approached him about testifying at this hearing.

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“Just tell the truth,” he recalled Bacchus telling him.

Another patient testified Bacchus cautioned him during a hockey game years ago he needed dental work after seeing a blackened tooth. The patient told him he had no benefits and couldn’t afford it, so Bacchus offered to do it free.

Bacchus has testified throughout the hearing he routinely treated patients who had little money or were on social assistance, especially at his Wallaceburg practice.

The patient said he left without a bill, but a year later received letter in the mail seeking more than $6,000 for the work. After filing a complaint to the college and having the bill forwarded to the credit bureau, it was dropped. The complaint was against a different dentist, not Bacchus.

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Roger Howard, a retired dentist and former college inspector, also testified. He was assigned to monitor Bacchus’s practice after Bacchus was convicted of seven college charges in 2013.

He was asked about an allegation Bacchus altered charts during the monitoring. Based on a report he said there was no sign of that, though he couldn’t independently remember due to visiting “hundreds and hundreds” of offices during his time as an inspector.

The hearing continues Tuesday.

If a dentist is found guilty of allegations by the discipline committee, penalties can include remediation, restrictions, suspensions, revoking licenses, fines up to $35,000, or any combination of those punishments.

After Bacchus’s 2013 conviction on seven college charges, he was fined $5,000, suspended for six months, reprimanded, had to take courses and had his practice monitored for two years. He still has his licence while the latest allegations are outstanding and, despite recently selling his practices, wants to continue practising part-time.

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Bacchus was criminally charged in October 2019 with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon after he was accused of stabbing a man – a former patient – in front of his home amid accusations of infidelity. He was convicted of both charges in September after a five-day trial and is expected to be sentenced in April for aggravated assault, after the second charge was stayed.

The Crown has asked for a three-year prison term for the attack, which involved bear spray, while the defence has proposed a suspended sentence and probation. Superior Court Justice Russell Raikes will come back with his decision soon.

Bacchus has said during the college hearing that he plans to appeal his criminal convictions.

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