Halifax cardiologist Dr. Gabrielle Horne has had a $1.4 million damage award downgraded to $800,000.
In 2002, Dr. Horne, who was a rising medical star, had her hospital privileges reduced after a dispute with a hospital director of the former Capital District Health Authority.
Fourteen years later, in July 2016, after a 33-day trial into administrative bad faith a jury awarded her $1.4 million. It was the largest such award in Canada for damages to reputation and career.
The health authority appealed the award. So did Dr. Horne.
The health authority may feel they saved $600,000 with the decision of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, but at what cost? How much more was spent on lawyers for this appeal? How much staff and executive time was eaten up by this? And more critically, how much has this cost Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s reputation?
As we try to recruit new doctors what does the appeal say to prospective physicians about how we value and respect medical professionals?
Dr. Horne has still prevailed. It took her 14 years of fighting an unsympathetic system and she won. Two years later, she may have less money coming from the NSHA, but the court hasn’t questioned the facts: she was wronged!
The message is simple: this is a health regime that doesn’t value doctors. Of all the places in the world to practice medicine, why would a doctor choose to come to work among an executive class who won’t admit a wrong and will use the weight of the public purse against them? The only hope to salvaging the province’s and NSHA’s reputation is for a change at the top.
How much as this saving cost us?
A Post Script: This article in The Chronicle Herald tells us how much the lawsuit cost Dr. Horne.
It’s a safe bet that the corporate costs for Capital Health and NSHA were far greater. Thinking about the higher costs of government actions, it wouldn’t be surprising if the NSHA/Capital Health legal costs were between $2-$3 million. Put another way, that could buy several mid-range or one top-of-the-line MRI machine. Or it could have paid the salary of a family physician for eight-to-12 years.