Hearing date set for Beaverton optometrist

A hearing date has been set for the Beaverton optometrist facing allegations of misconduct, including sexually harassing behavior towards patients and staff.

The hearing has been set for March 22, nearly nine months after allegations against Dr. Jon V. Barnes were referred to the Discipline Committee of the College of Optometrists of Ontario.

Allegations of professional misconduct on the part of Dr. Barnes were referred to the Discipline Committee on July 24, 2017. The hearing in March will take place in Toronto.

According to the College, it is alleged that Dr. Barnes “sexually abused” three patients – who were also members of his staff – between 2002 and 2016. He allegedly wrote comments of a sexual nature in various places in the workplace where they would see them, made sexual comments to them, about them, and/or about others in their presence and/or engaged in behaviours of a sexual nature towards them in the workplace, including showing them sexual images and videos.

The complaint also alleges that Dr. Barnes noted in patient records inappropriate commentary about patients and/or their relatives, including comments of a sexual nature, not relevant to care and/or engaged in unprofessional behaviours in the office, including engaging in the sexual harassment of staff.

The College notes that such conduct would be considered “disgraceful, dishonourable, unprofessional or unethical” by fellow members, if true, and also includes other instances of misconduct. They include an allegation that Dr. Barnes acted in a physically aggressive manner in the office, including but not limited to banging his fists on furniture, slamming doors, and/or throwing furniture, shared an employee’s private health information with other staff and acted in a verbally or emotionally abusive manner.

The College also alleges that Dr. Barnes tried to redact notations he had made in patient charts and, in so doing, attempted to conceal or destroy information relevant to the investigation into the complaints.

These allegations have not been proven.

The College of Optometrists of Ontario is a self-regulatory body responsible for registering and governing optometrists in the province.

“When you visit an optometrist, you have the right to expect safe, quality eye care. The College protects this right by setting the registration requirements that must be met to practice the profession in Ontario and by creating the programs that will ensure that optometrists keep their skills and knowledge up to date,” the organization’s website reads.

A discipline hearing is a formal process, similar to a court of law. Like a court of law, the burden of proof lies solely on the prosecution.

“The College is required to provide the optometrist and his or her lawyer with all relevant information obtained by the College during the investigation including written and documentary evidence that will be introduced, the identity of any expert witnesses, summaries of the evidence they will give, and the identity of any other witnesses who will appear. This information must be disclosed at least ten days prior to a hearing,” the College’s website reads.

“The defence counsel’s role is to represent the optometrist at the hearing. The defence does not share the same disclosure obligations as the prosecution. If an optometrist chooses to represent her/himself at a hearing acting as her/his own defence, the optometrist has all the procedural rights afforded to the defence counsel.”

The hearing will be conducted by a panel of three to five members of the Discipline Committee, serving as a de facto jury, considering all evidence presented. Should that evidence prove the allegations to be true, the panel will then hear submissions regarding what penalty should be imposed as as defined by the Health Professions Procedural Code.

Penalties could include anything from an appearance before the panel for a reprimand, suspension of the offender’s certificate of registration or an outright revocation.

“The three major considerations of the panel when imposing penalty are: the effect on, and appropriateness for, the optometrist (reformation, rehabilitation and specific deterrence); the effect on future conduct of the profession (general deterrence); and the expression of regard and concern on behalf of the public interest about the conduct (punishment),” the website reads.

“At the end of the entire process, the panel will issue a written decision and the reasons for their decision.”

Both the College and the optometrist have the right to appeal the panel’s decision to the Divisional Court of Ontario.

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