A gynecologist at the centre of a years-long CBC investigation had his medical licence suspended for four months following a regulatory hearing in early March.
Dr. David Gerber, of Meridia Medical in midtown Toronto, pleaded no contest to allegations from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) that he engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct in his care and treatment of 10 patients over the course of more than a decade.
“We are deeply disturbed by your repeated misconduct,” said the Ontario Physicians and Surgeons Discipline Tribunal, who delivered Gerber a formal reprimand.
“You failed to ensure that patients sufficiently understood the procedures you were to perform and what they would involve,” it said. “When patients expressed pain and discomfort, you failed to demonstrate adequate sensitivity to what they were experiencing and dismissed their concerns. In some instances, you also made patients uncomfortable by making inappropriate comments about their appearance while conducting sensitive procedures.”
According to a statement of facts Gerber does not contest, he told a patient during an appointment “that she had ‘beautiful’ eyes.”
The suspension started April 8.
“Hearing that even one patient was displeased with the way I communicated with them was distressing and called for introspection,” Gerber told CBC News in a statement provided by his lawyer.
“Though care is taken to perform examinations and procedures as gently as possible, It is not uncommon for women under the care of gynecologists to complain of discomfort or pain as the result of medical procedures,” he said.
“As an example, a patient under the care of a gynecologist may have repeated intervaginal ultrasounds and not experience any pain, but may experience pain during the next examination, even though the procedure was performed the same way.”
In late 2020, CBC News reported a civil suit had been filed against Gerber, and three patients had complained about him to the CPSO. Months later, it was announced that complaints from six patients would proceed to a regulatory discipline hearing. A year after that, another four were added, bringing the total to 10.
Three complainants went on the record with CBC News in 2022 to discuss extensive delays in the discipline process and issues they had with how their complaints were characterized by college prosecutors.
Along with the licence suspension and the reprimand, Gerber is required to attend an ethics and boundaries course and pay $6,000 to the college.
The disciplinary tribunal accepted a recommendation for penalty put forward by both CPSO prosecutors and Gerber’s lawyers. The two parties negotiated the details of the recommendation prior to the hearing.
Asked about negotiating an agreement versus proceeding with a contested hearing, Carolyn Silver, the CPSO’s lead prosecutor, said the college is routinely assessing the strength of each case. “Always bearing in mind that when a matter goes to a contested hearing, there is never a guarantee of a finding on the allegation.”
Allegations of incompetence and failure to maintain standard of practice, which had previously been put forward by the college, were withdrawn.
A history of complaints
The CPSO does not make public how many complaints Gerber has been the subject of throughout his career. However, his public profile shows that in 2018 he received an in-person caution “with respect to his communications and being sensitive to patient discomfort during examinations.” The caution notes that “Gerber has been the subject of several previous complaints” regarding the same issues.
It also states he has previously been required to take a “continuing education and remediation program” and prepare “a written report reflecting on the remedial efforts he has undertaken in the past and what he is going to do in the future to avoid similar complaints.”
The committee that issued the 2018 caution “was concerned that despite his previous involvement with the college on these issues, and attempts at remediation, Dr. Gerber was once more the subject of a complaint raising similar concerns.”
Clinic inspections an issue
Along with the complaints from the 10 former patients, the hearing dealt with allegations that Gerber engaged in disgraceful, dishonourable or unprofessional conduct with respect to inspections of Meridia Medical.
According to a statement of fact which he does not contest, the college was unable to complete two surprise inspections. In the first instance, Gerber denied the assessor entry into the office. When a college representative revisited about two weeks later, Gerber stated they could remain onsite but could not speak with any of his staff or patients, and could not go in his operating or procedure rooms.
The college soon after issued the clinic a “fail” and directed it to cease conducting certain procedures.
Following subsequent inspections, the clinic received a “pass with conditions,” allowing it to fully resume operations.
Although the college issued a pass with conditions, it “found that Dr. Gerber, as the medical director, was not fulfilling his responsibilities with due diligence,” and “required that the premises appoint a new medical director.”
“Dr. Gerber is no longer the medical director of Meridia Medical Group and a new medical director has been appointed,” according to the statement of facts.