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Public not informed after ex-Surrey councillor disciplined a 2nd time by naturopathic college

public not informed after ex surrey councillor disciplined a 2nd time by naturopathic college

A former Surrey, B.C., councillor previously fined for campaigning as a “community physician” without specifying that she’s a naturopath was disciplined again during her time in office for similar lapses, but the public was not informed, a recent tribunal decision has revealed.

Allison Patton received a $500 fine, an order to pay $1,250 in investigation costs and a reprimand in January 2022 for using the titles “doctor” or “Dr.” in a Yellow Pages ad and on her website without denoting that she is a naturopath, according to a December decision from the Health Professions Review Board of B.C. (HPRB).

The same disciplinary consent order also covered Patton’s advertisement of hundreds of dollars in vitamins, IV treatments and ozone therapy in a March 2020 Facebook post in response to the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic. 

She deleted that post within 24 hours, acknowledging that it violated the advertising policies of the College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. and “was reasonably likely to mislead the public,” according to the HPRB.

Unlike Patton’s previous discipline for breaching college advertising policy during the 2018 municipal election, there was no public notification of the latest disciplinary measures.

The HPRB’s mandate is to review decisions from B.C.’s regulatory colleges for health professionals. In this case, the people who’d filed complaints against Patton asked the board to review a number of concerns, including the college inquiry committee’s decision not to alert the public. 

But the board upheld all of the committee’s actions, noting that, according to the college, Patton hadn’t intended to mislead anyone, and there was no evidence anyone had been deceived.

In contrast, Patton’s previous actions, in the context of a political campaign, made it more likely that she was intentionally misleading voters, and there was evidence that at least one person was duped, the college told the HPRB.

“Regardless of whether I might agree or disagree with the inquiry committee’s rationale, I find that it is both intelligible and consistent with the evidence before the committee. Accordingly, I conclude it was reasonable,” panel chair David Newell wrote in the HPRB decision.

Although the HPRBC decision does not name Patton, it includes the exact date and unique details of her publicly posted Feb. 6, 2020, consent order with the college. Patton has yet to respond to requests for comment.

CBC contacted one of the Surrey residents who filed a complaint against Patton for comment, but they said they are legally barred from speaking about the case.

Under B.C.’s current Health Professions Act, disciplinary orders made through consent are only made public if they’re deemed to be “serious matters.”

In his 2018 report on B.C.’s system for regulating health professionals, international expert Harry Cayton described these limits on transparency as “problematic” and wrote that “it is difficult to discern any benefit to the public.” 

The province’s new Health Professions and Occupations Act, which has yet to come into effect, will ensure that all disciplinary decisions will be made public, according to the government.

The HPRB decision says that Patton, who lost her bid for re-election in October, was in violation of her previous consent order with the college, in which she’d promised to follow all bylaws and standards and to clearly identify herself as a naturopath or ND (naturopathic doctor) in all advertising. 

In the 2020 order, Patton was fined $500 and suspended from practice for three days for breaching the college’s advertising policy and bylaws during her 2018 campaign. 

She had described herself on a campaign website as “a community physician for over 17 years” and referenced her “medical practice” in a campaign video.

After the election was decided, one Surrey resident told CBC he’d voted for Patton and publicly endorsed her in the mistaken belief that she was an MD.

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