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 Smyth was Hyson's patient right up until the time his licence was revoked in January.
"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 kills. 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
Craig Roxborough, CPSO's director of policy, said the college has no power to compel a doctor to release patient records. He pointed out that they've already revoked his licence, 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.
The CPSO and provincial law requires doctors who stop practising to establish a medical custodian to oversee access to patient records.
Doctors are also required, under provincial law, to provide patients access to their records.
Misneach had filed a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner's office. She said a case worker was unable to reach Hyson.
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.