Dr. Roland Wong appears to have kept on filing questionable “special diet allowance” forms while waiting to hear his penalty.
Dr. Roland Wong stands outside the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons building on Monday during a break in the first day of his penalty hearing.
In one case, Dr. Wong wrote that 10 members of a single family had those conditions, which netted them a monthly cheque of $2,500.
In its decision, the committee said it was “troubled by the repetitive confirmation” of the four allergies and the health condition.
Dr. Wong used to be the single largest filer in Ontario — submitting six times more forms than the next highest physician and signing off on half of the high-value ($200 to $250) applications submitted to OHIP between April 2006 and September 2009.
“The temptation to exaggerate in order to maximize financial benefit for a patient is entirely understandable,” the committee wrote. “Advocacy for a patient, however, should not trump one’s professional integrity.”
The committee ruled against an allegation of incompetence, saying Dr. Wong’s lapses were in “judgment” and not knowledge or skill. A police investigation ruled out fraud.
College lawyer Lindsay Cader submitted a new report Monday at the start of the penalty hearing, alleging Dr. Wong continued to take advantage of the system throughout his discipline hearing last year, failing to properly assess and document patients.
A College investigator said the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services flagged 69 special diet allowance forms in January that were filed by Dr. Wong in 2012.
While Cader said the College isn’t looking for an additional charge of professional misconduct, but it does want the committee to take subsequent behaviour into account when determining a penalty.
“Dr. Wong’s conduct does not demonstrate that he was affected by these hearings,” Cader said. “Dr. Wong will not stop completing the forms in this manner unless he is made to do so by the College.”
The College is seeking a nine-month suspension of Dr. Wong’s licence.
They’re also asking that he be reprimanded, pay a $35,000 fine as well as a tariff ($4,460 per day) to cover the cost of the hearing, and be made to work with a preceptor — a clinical instructor — for a year, who will help with record keeping, sign off on all special diet allowance forms, and conduct regular reviews of Dr. Wong’s charting. The College also wants him to be subjected to unannounced inspections during that year.
But John Clarke, an organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, said the doctor deserves “a medal and keys to the city,” not a punishment.
A crowd of people showed up Monday morning to support Dr. Wong , shaking his hand and filling the small hearing room.
“To us, these are all rarefied legal arguments,” Clarke said. “One decent man stood up to ensure that people lacking the basic necessities of life could get nutrition and health, and to punish him would be to intimidate anyone else who might follow his example.”
When Dr. Wong’s lawyer, Peter Rosenthal — who fought to keep the new allegations from being submitted — makes his submissions Tuesday morning, he intends to ask the penalty be just a reprimand.
Dr. Wong said he’s not worried about the outcome, nor is he over-thinking the past: “It’s difficult for me to say how remorseful I am. It is done and a lot of people benefited from it.”
The penalty hearing is slated to continue Tuesday and Wednesday and Sept. 3 and 4, although it will probably conclude earlier.