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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 2016

Inquiry calls for reform of medical school agreement

An independent investigation into the handling of disputes involving three professors of medicine at Dalhousie University is calling for a fundamental reform of the relationship between the university and the provincial health authority.

The inquiry, established by CAUT in 2004, was triggered after conflicts arose when oncologist Michael Goodyear, cardiologist Gabrielle Horne, and medical chemist Bassam Nassar criticized the actions of colleagues, advocated for changes in medical treatments, and exerted their right to determine with whom they would collaborate in their research.

“The disputes and the recriminations that followed were fueled by fundamental flaws in the affiliation agreement between Dalhousie and the Capital District Health Authority,” said CAUT executive director David Robinson. “The agreement left clinical faculty vulnerable because it failed to recognize and defend the fundamental importance of academic freedom.”

The committee’s report calls for a fair settlement to be reached in the outstanding claims by Drs. Horne and Goodyear. The committee also recommends that Dalhousie and the recently formed Nova Scotia Health Authority negotiate a new cooperative affiliation agreement to protect the academic freedom and the rights of clinical faculty.

“Clinical faculty have been excluded from the Dalhousie Faculty Association because the Nova Scotia Trade Union Act prohibits licensed physicians in the province from being members of a trade union,” noted Robinson. “This means that clinical faculty don’t have the same protections and rights as other faculty at the university, and they don’t have the right to form their own union to represent their interests. The lesson in the report for the provincial government is that it should immediately take steps to amend the Trade Union Act to allow licensed physicians to be members of a trade union.”