Health Care

Neurology patient desperate for medical records 1 year after doctor loses licence

Ever since former London neurologist Dr. Harvey Christopher Hyson lost his medical licence, Melanie Misneach has been frantically trying to reach him. 

She’s placed phone calls, sent multiple emails and when all that failed, she filed a complaint with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.

She even sent a registered letter to the office of Hyson, who was stripped of his licence by the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons (CPSO) after he was found guilty in January of trying to buy sexual services from a 16-year-old girl. 

Despite her exhaustive efforts to contact Hyson over the past 11 months, Misneach said she’s received no response from Hyson or his office.

Misneach is desperate to reach Hyson because she’s serving as care co-ordinator for her close friend Darrin Smyth, who was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease in June 2017. Smyth was Hyson’s patient right up until the time his licence was revoked. 

“This is a progressive illness, so it’s important to have continuity of care and access to those medical records,” said Misneach. “Dr. Hyson was the first doctor Darrin saw who had Huntington’s knowledge. Those records provide a starting benchmark for how Darrin has progressed in his illness.”

She worries that having to re-do the initial assessments and family histories contained in those records will set back Smyth’s treatment.

Huntington’s is a devastating brain disorder that progressively breaks down nerve cells. Typically Huntington’s patients progressively lose mobility and cognitive skills. The disease can cause depression and dementia and patients who contract the disease as adults typically live about 15 to 20 years after the first symptoms are detected. 

College powerless to get medical records

CPSO rules require doctors who stop practising to ensure patients have access to their records. 

However Craig Roxborough, CPSO’s director of policy, said the college has no power to compel a doctor to release patient records once they’ve lost their licence. He pointed out that CPSO has already revoked Hyson’s licence, which is the strongest disciplinary action the college can take. 

“Once a physician has had their licence revoked, our authority over them and ability to compel them to take action is quite diminished,” he said.

Misneach filed a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner’s office in September. A spokesperson for the privacy commissioner’s office said they tried to contact Hyson, but he failed to respond to a request for access within the required 30 days. Their notice of review sent to Hyson was sent back marked “return to sender.”

Hyson calls CBC News back

CBC News called Hyson’s office on Monday and he called back within a few hours. 

He said he’s wasn’t aware that Misneach was trying to reach him. 

Hyson said he’s been living outside of London where he was unable to access his office records. 

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’ve had my own health trouble. I promise to have all the records digitized and accessible by the end of the month.”

Misneach wonders why Hyson didn’t respond to her multiple phone calls but then was able to respond to a call from CBC News within a few hours. She said she’s hopeful — but also somewhat skeptical — he will follow through on his word to deliver the records by year’s end.

“It’s hard to believe, I’d be cautious still to see how things turn out,” she said. “It’s a shame that [CBC News] calling may have been the motivation for him to do something.” 

Hyson will be eligible to apply to get his medical licence back in January 2024, pending a hearing before CPSO’s disciplinary committee. 

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