Fonthill doctor’s battle goes on

With support of his patients, Duane Pelser maintains his efforts to have license reinstated

BY VOICE STAFF

Dr. Duane Pelser, the Fonthill-based family physician whose license was suspended last summer over an administrative error, now has litigation pending against the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) over the renewal of his license. According to Pelser, his failure to pay his membership fee was a result of the chaos in opening a new practice, and that when this matter was brought to his attention, in early September, he immediately called the CPSO and paid the fee and the late penalty.

Pelser said that he was told then that his license would be reinstated within 48 hours.

After this period had passed, he again contacted the CPSO and was told that he would be required to apply as a new doctor, even though he has practiced in Canada for more than a decade.

Last week, Pelser told the Voice that he is continuing to fight the CPSO’s decision.

“It seems that the only body with some type of jurisdiction over the CPSO may be the courts and this is what we are going to pursue next,” he said. “The CPSO did not follow administrative law principles in not renewing my license after the late penalty fee was paid and have tried every tactic to delay justice.”

As a result of the pending litigation, Pelser said that he preferred not to elaborate, but maintained that he intends to keep up his efforts. Pelser, who is originally from South Africa, returned to his native country during his ordeal, where he remains visiting with friends and family.

“If it weren’t for the amazing loyalty of my patients that have stood by me through this I would have given up a long time ago and just lived happily ever after in South Africa,” he said.

“But for them, I won’t give up and [will] continue to fight until a judge rules against us. I can’t see this happening as our case is rock solid.”

Nancy Martin, one of Pelser’s patients who has been advocating for the reinstatement of his license, said that she isn’t in the market for a new doctor.

“My family agrees that we will not and do not have any intention on looking for a new family doctor,” she said.

“When you have finally found the doctor that connects with you, remembers you from appointment to appointment, makes you feel comfortable and is genuinely interested in finding what is causing your illness, you just don’t quietly walk away. For my family, Dr. Pelser is that doctor.”

Martin is part of a Facebook group of Pelser’s patients, and said that the group will continue to support him, including in a courtroom.

“What the CPSO has done is downright offensive,” she added. “They have not only taken away Dr. Pelser’s livelihood, they have endangered the lives of all his patients.”

Martin pointed out that the CPSO’s mandate is to protect the public interest, and said she was disappointed that the organization has not replied to emails, phone calls, and couriered packages.

Rosemary Culos, another of Pelser’s patients who is waiting for his return, is equally upset with the CPSO.

“It infuriates me to read that doctors who have been found guilty of over-prescribing narcotics receive a fine and suspension, while a doctor who willing admitted that he forgot to pay his licence—then not only paid his licence but also the penalty fee—is closed down with no assurances of reinstatement because he did not give his change of address in writing. I find the CPSO, whose mandate is to protect patients, arrogant and uncaring as they completely ignore emails and a petition signed by over 600 people requesting Dr. Pelser’s licence be reinstated quickly.”

In November, Pelser learned that the CPSO was opening an investigation into the period of time during which he had inadvertently practised with an expired license.

Last week, Pelser called this investigation “completely bogus,” and that “it is going nowhere. This is just a tactic to block my renewal as there is an outstanding ‘investigation’ that they need to complete. All this is a tactic to delay and hold up my renewal to squeeze me more.”

Pelser first began practicing in Pelham at a clinic on Pancake Lane, after which he moved with the rest of the practice to Welland McMaster Family Health. Early in 2017, Pelser began looking to open a new solo practice, eventually renting offices at the corner of Highway 20 and Rice Road, coincidentally the same space previously occupied by the Voice.

Pelser says that he has heard from patients that McMaster told them that if they followed Pelser to his new practice, they would not be permitted to return to McMaster.

“I don’t know if the CPSO called McMaster to ask about my renewal fee. But if they did, I don’t know what McMaster would have said. Would they have said ‘We don’t know where he is?’ All I know is that I didn’t see any reminder until the beginning of September,” Pelser said in October.

At that time, Karen Millejours, the clinic manager at the Fonthill portion of Welland McMaster, refused to speak about Pelser.

“We don’t have any comment on anything,” she said.

The CPSO likewise declined to comment on Pelser’s situation in October, saying that it does not speak on specific cases.

“In seventeen years in Canada I have not had one patient complaint to the College about care that I provided, no past findings, and my patients did not deserve losing their doctor due to an administrative error. Bottom line,” said Pelser. He added words of inspiration.

“The world is full of questionable and dishonest people, some in your inner circle and some in the outside world, but [it’s important to] focus and continue to fight for the ones that have shown unquestionable loyalty and support through difficult times.”

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