Dr. Robert Stalker credits Halifax brain surgeon Dr. Adrienne Weeks for saving his life, and he surely knows that Dr. Weeks is a brilliant neurosurgeon.
But that doesn’t take away Dr. Stalker’s pain that he can no longer do what he once did. What he loved so much. Among others, he lays the blame on Dr. Weeks.
On August 12, 2016, five weeks after his brain surgery, Dr. Weeks reported that an MRI showed no abnormalities. She was also at this time completing the Attending Physician’s Statement of Disability, indicating to his insurance company that Dr. Stalker “had undergone surgery and had improved but still needed time off for further assessment.”
That September, Robert had another follow-up with Adrienne. Again no concerns.
By October, Dr. Stalker was feeling fine and itching to get back to work. The work he loves and at which he is remarkably good.
Dr. Weeks suggests he go back part-time. Sort of like easing yourself into a hot bath. My words, not her’s. She made a follow-up appointment for Dr. Stalker and scheduled a further MRI.
December 16, 2016, Dr. Robert Stalker returns to his practice.
That follow-up appointment was on February 21, 2017. This one went a little differently.
According to Dr. Weeks, Dr. Stalker showed up an hour late and she detected “pressured speech, tangential thoughts, lack of sleep, and high energy.”
Fully aware of Dr. Stalker’s medical history, and the fact that his late identical twin brother Jimmy was diagnosed as bipolar, Dr. Weeks pondered the state of Dr. Stalker’s mental health.
She brought up the possibility of “mania” and asked Dr. Stalker to make a prompt appointment with his family physician, Dr. Glenn Andrea. Which, again according to Dr. Weeks, never took place.
Surgically, Dr. Stalker was all tickety-boo, but his demeanour was beginning to set off alarm bells. At least to some trained minds.
Dr. Weeks subsequently wrote to Dr. Stalker’s family physician expressing her concerns, adding that a sizable frontal lobe tumour and the required surgery could aggravate psychiatric matters.
By March, Dr. Weeks had received a phone call from an extended Stalker family member. She did not confirm or deny that she was Dr. Stalker’s neurosurgeon. She did listen, but virtually took no part in the conversation.
The family member, according to Dr. Weeks, had concerns about Dr. Stalker’s “competency, his lack of insight.” As well as some material a very opinionated Dr. Stalker was posting on social media.
Dr. Weeks again called Dr. Andrea. They thought it best they get Dr. Stalker on the neuropsychiatry train as quickly as possible. Dr. Andrea agreed he felt comfortable talking to Dr. Stalker about these mutual concerns. He didn’t anticipate any outbursts. He had always known Dr. Stalker to be a reasonable man.
In what was categorized as “not a complaint but an expression of concern,” Dr. Weeks then phoned the Nova Scotia College of Physicians & Surgeons “to ensure that the plan that Dr. Andrea and I had initiated was sufficient to discharge our reporting obligations to the College in a situation where a practising physician might be impaired.”
A conversation took place with Dr. Graham Bullock of the College’s Physician Performance Department. In this conversation, Dr. Weeks most likely, inadvertently or not, brought up Dr. Stalker’s name.
She was told by Dr. Bullock that the arranged, or proposed plan for Dr. Stalker’s continued care was appropriate. Asses were covered.
On March 14, 2017, Dr. Weeks is copied on a letter about a patient from Dr. Stalker which then goes on about his own medical history:
“Dr. Weeks is my highly esteemed surgeon who removed my meningioma with considerable expertise, creating an overnight miracle for me. I will forever be thankful. She is not perfect and made a mistake to label me manic... an inside joke for me, maybe not for Dr. Weeks. You can tell her how happy-go-lucky I was in Med school, then became this quiet, depressed, nonfunctioning, superb physician. I am back to my old ways now, and people have trouble adjusting to that!”
About a month later, a typewritten letter arrived to Dr. Weeks from Dr. Stalker, who advises he’s been ordered to appear before the college to assess his ability to practise medicine:
“I hope I have always portrayed to you in deed and in word my appreciation for literally restoring life to something I remember from years ago...
“I am prepared to defend myself fully and I sincerely hope that I am allowed to continue to do what I love doing, i.e., seeing and helping patients, because frankly there is no one in the province or this country that likely does MSK problems better than myself. Use that to further your cause as well, if you wish. And I realize that you are likely at this instant saying ‘the man is a raving lunatic,’ but believe me I am not just pissed off at you or someone. I know my friends do not like this ‘new but actually recycled me,’ but I refuse to go back to that sad sack of a human being that I have been for many years.”
At that May 10 meeting at the College, Robert was accompanied by assigned lawyer Brian Downie. Dr. Gus Grant, College Registrar For Life, brought along his assistant, Carolyn MacDonald. She took notes.
It was agreed by all parties that Dr. Stalker would voluntarily suspend his practice as of midnight May 10, until he could undergo a psychiatric assessment.
Gus Grant took pen to paper and made a small notation after that meeting:
“He (Dr. Stalker) was tangential but did not appear delusional. He could not keep still. He was oriented to time, place, and purpose of the visit.
“Although mania is a health condition of high risk, I did not feel that Dr. Stalker was a danger to himself or to others as to justify being certified. I felt I had reasonable grounds to believe he was unfit to practise.
“He consented to withdraw from practice pending a formal fitness to practice assessment.”
Registrar Gus Grant then included this little gem:
“I choose not to make this known on our website or through the Physician Search function of our website because, in my view, this was a matter primarily of physician health.”
Dr. Gus Grant is entirely right. But nothing, I feel, was stopping the College from putting up a very unspecific notice on their website saying Dr. Stalker would be away from the office indefinitely because he’s feeling a bit under the weather, or he’s off on an extended holiday, or something to that effect. Surely that would have helped temper all this unnecessary confusion re: Dr. Stalker’s circumstance. Believe it or not, referrals are still being made to that office. Even after all these months.
But here’s the odd thing: if Dr. Stalker was in the dire state some believed him to be in, then how is it that he could provide any manner of informed consent? I don’t know the answer to that question.
Still, there was a v. sad, kind of Star Chamber pall, hanging over the whole affair.
When Robert asked, “Who are my accusers and what are the accusations against me?”
Registrar Gus replied, “Since there have been no formal complaints and no patient complaints I am under no obligation to tell you.”
Off to The Tower, you go.
Seems highly unfair to me.
Five days later, May 15, Robert was still not giving up. He left this voicemail at the College:
“Hello, it’s Dr. Robert Stalker and Fuhrer Grant took away my licence to practise last week but I was never provided with the letter of complaint. Could you please fax that to me as I’m seeing my lawyer today who is going to be suing the College of Physicians & Surgeons and Fuhrer Grant on my behalf.”
By the way, at this point Robert had fired lawyer Brian Downie and taken up with lawyer Derek Wells, the former South Shore MP. Wells would also eventually get the hook. Notes suggest Dr. Stalker was then looking in the direction of well-known Halifax immigration lawyer Lee Cohen.
That same afternoon, Dr. Stalker sent a fax to Gus Grant’s assistant, Carolyn MacDonald, who collects or screens these things on behalf of her boss. Something like that. The fax read:
“I plan at some time to address my concerns about the horrible treatment afforded me by Gus Grant and my Canadian Medical Protective Association appointed lawyer. It has been a travesty of justice and Nova Scotia physicians need to know that, really, you are the College of Anti-Doctors.
“I have started the steps to sue both Gus Grant and the College (at Frankland Presstime we found no such papers at the courthouse). The media will be notified of my displeasure, as well.
“So that all physicians are made aware of the potential abuse that can occur at the hands of the College, and that you are ultimately left alone with no support.”
Also on the morning of May 15, Dr. Stalker phoned the Canadian Medical Protective Association in Ottawa to let them know he was also going to sue them.
He writes that the lady on the other end of the phone “started screaming hysterically.”
“Fearing for her safety I called the Ottawa Police Department as I figured she was dead by this time. She called 30 minutes later to apologize. She had come to her desk and immediately returned my call then looked down at her desk to discover the huge amount of work she had been assigned to do that day and she simply lost it with me on the telephone.”
Dr. Stalker claims it took him 45 minutes to calm the lady down.
Robert also launched complaints to the College against Dr. Adrienne Weeks, Dr. Glenn Andrea, Dr. Gus Grant. All of which were dismissed.
He, of course, months earlier, had cut ties with his longtime GP Dr. Glenn Andrea, and of course, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Adrienne Weeks, who shipped his file to her colleague Dr. Simon Walling. In her letter to Dr. Stalker, she closes with:
“I wish you nothing but the best moving forward.”
In the final analysis, Dr. Robert Stalker was forced into an unwanted retirement, after having his brain chopped open.
He is hurt and confused.
What the man needs now, more than anything, is love, compassion and understanding.
I do wonder why Dr. Robert Stalker was not permitted, for a short period at least, to continue to practise while being monitored by boots on the ground.
l I will also note, as a benchmark of Dr. Stalker’s humanity, that he has employed a visually impaired woman in his office for over 30 years. Not because he took pity on the woman, but because he saw that she needed a break and could do what was asked of her.
l Like all of us, Dr. Stalker can be given to exaggeration. In terms of buying a new townhouse for his sister, Janet. It should be pointed out that brother and sister, together, bought the Linden Street property in 1987. So one might assume she had some equity in the joint to purchase a new townhouse.
l The Nova Scotia College of Physicians & Surgeons, and assessment shrink Dr. Mark Rubens, made far, far, too much of Dr. Stalker’s generously, in a so-called manic state, mowing some of his neighbours lawns. These are not lawns in the Young Avenue or the Shore Drive sense. They are merely piddling patches of grass.
Moreover, Dr. Stalker has been cutting piddling patches of grass for years. This is not new information. There is no eureka moment here.
In the wintertime Dr. Stalker trades in his mower for a snow shovel.