College’s decision to terminate physician’s assessment was reasonable given concerns about patient safety.

Administrative law – Decisions reviewed – College of Physicians and Surgeons – Judicial review – Procedural requirements and fairness – Natural justice – Standard of review – Reasonableness – Physicians and surgeons – Governance – Competence

Sandhu v College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, [2021] A.J. No. 883, 2021 ABQB 494, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, June 28, 2021, C.M. Jones J.

Dr. Sandhu was a foreign-trained physician who sought the approval of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (the “College”) to practice family medicine in Alberta. The process involved a practice readiness assessment (“PRA”), a process which was commenced but not completed. The assessor found Dr. Sandhu’s performance to be unsatisfactory in 24 of 36 assessment notes created. The PRA was terminated after the assessor informed the College he was concerned about patient safety and refused to continue as Dr. Sandhu’s assessor. The College provided Dr. Sandhu with an opportunity to respond to the assessor’s feedback. Dr. Sandhu attributed his underperformance to being inadequately oriented in an unfamiliar environment and bias by his assessor. He was subsequently informed that his application for registration was refused for failing to complete the PRA. The College’s Appeal Panel found the decision was reasonable and procedurally fair.

Dr. Sandhu’s application for judicial review of the Appeal Panel’s decision to the Court of Queen’s Bench was dismissed. The court held that the College did not fail to meet its duty of procedural fairness in conducting the PRA, as Dr. Sandhu had been sufficiently informed regarding what the assessment would and would not involve, as well as the relevant expectations for the assessment, including that he was specifically advised that the assessor would not provide him with orientation. Dr. Sandhu could not reasonably expect to receive guidance as the PRA was not a training experience. He was sufficiently informed of his deficiencies.

The court held that the College did not have to take into consideration Dr. Sandhu’s rights and interests before terminating the PRA because of the concerns for patient safety that had been identified. The court further held it was reasonable for the College to find that Dr. Sandhu posed a risk to the public and for the College to conclude that Dr. Sandhu failed to meet the appropriate standards of medical practice.

This case was digested by JoAnne G. Barnum, and first published in the LexisNexis®