An Indigenous physician at the heart of an internal investigation by his former employer in the Northwest Territories has been treating patients at a federal hospital on Manitoba’s Peguis First Nation.
Ongomiizwin-Health Services, which hired Dr. Lance Crook to work at the Percy E. Moore Hospital, failed to check his references with the Hay River Health and Services Authority (HRHSSA) where the incidents giving rise to a complaint occurred, according to administration officials there.
(Dr. Lance Crook. Credit: NNSL)
Percy E. Moore Hospital is located on the Peguis First Nation, about 200 km north of Winnipeg.
Angela McGonigle, 43, alleged Dr. Lance Crook, in March 2017, improperly accessed her personal health information, improperly accessed her health records and she also made other allegations, according to documents obtained by APTN Investigates.
Crook, a 43-year-old married father of four, treated Angela McGonigle’s young son in 2016 at the Hay River Hospital. She said he obtained her phone number from her son’s chart in order to start a relationship with her.
“When I was playing with my kids and he left the message on my phone,” she said. “I was surprised that he called. Everything escalated from there.”
After a relationship began, McGonigle says she brought the complaint forward.
The physician declined to be interviewed when reached by phone at the hospital.
The Hay River health authority appointed two independent investigators in August 2017, though McGonigle says they did not tell her the details from the outcome of the investigation.
APTN Investigates contacted HRHSSA on Feb. 28, 2018 and a few days later they concluded the complaint “was substantiated,” the documents show.
At a meeting also held in early March 2018, Hay River hospital administrators told McGonigle that Dr. Crook had resigned. He left the hospital with two years remaining on a three-year contract.
McGonigle said when she found out he was working as a physician in Manitoba, she was shocked by the health authority’s inaction on her complaint.
As the former employer, “They know everything. They have all the proof. And he is still a doctor,” she said. “I felt like I don’t matter to anyone here.”
The HRHSSA was asked by APTN Investigates to explain how the doctor obtained employment in Manitoba during the time there was an ongoing investigation into his conduct.
They declined an on-camera interview citing privacy concerns but sent email responses.
“We take matters of professional misconduct very seriously. Allegations are investigated and complaints referred to regulatory bodies as part of our process, whenever warranted,” an email from Erin Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer for HRHSSA stated.
The Hay River health authority would neither confirm nor deny if they notified the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, which oversees professional licensing in the NWT, as a result of their misconduct investigation.
McGonigle has since filed an additional complaint against the doctor with the college.
Ongomiizwin provided no details on when he started work there.
A spokesperson for the federal government’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch denied any responsibility for the hire and referred APTN Investigates to Ongomiizwin for comment.
Dr. Catherine Cook, the Vice-Dean, Indigenous Health at University of Manitoba, sent an email indicating the unit is “very satisfied with the thorough vetting process we have in place” for vetting physicians.
(Dr. Catherine Cook, the Vice-Dean, Indigenous Health at University of Manitoba. Credit: University of Manitoba)
Last week, Percy E. Moore Hospital reception staff told APTN Investigates Dr. Crook was “not there” and “they didn’t know when he would be back.”
The university would not confirm or deny if he still worked at the facility but sent an email response.
“In a case where information comes forward after the hiring process regarding the professional conduct of a physician, the university would relieve the individual of any clinical duties pending an assessment of the allegations,” Cook wrote.
“The University of Manitoba respects the privacy of its employees and is not permitted to share confidential information about any of its employees under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy,” the vice-dean added.
Documents show that McGonigle attempted to recant her complaint about Crook on March 31, 2017 but the hospital continued with the investigation.
The Crooks are a prominent family in Hay River, a small community of 3,500 more than 450 km south of Yellowknife. One of Abby Crook’s other sons was Kole Crook, a noted fiddler who died in a plane crash in 2001.
APTN Investigates encountered Abby Crook when we were in the community. She would not agree to an interview. Subsequently we left numerous messages requesting an interview. She has not responded.
On March 10, 2018, a few days after the Crooks were contacted by APTN Investigates, McGonigle was charged by RCMP in Hay River with uttering threats and harassing communications.
RCMP refused to talk about her case and said she is due in court on May 7, 2018.
McGonigle denies any wrongdoing.