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02/26/2016

Halifax pediatrician faces charges of possessing, sharing child pornography

An elderly pediatrician is facing child pornography charges after a raid on a Halifax home Friday morning.

 

Halifax police said Dr. William Richard Vitale, 72, was arrested around 6:25 a.m. at a house on St. Margaret's Bay Road, where officers seized computer equipment.

 

Const. Dianne Woodworth said investigators don't believe the material allegedly seized involves any patients.

 

"It’s not believed any of the children are local children who have been victimized. There's no indication at this point," Woodworth said.

 

The arrest followed a one-month investigation by the Internet Child Exploitation Unit, she said.

 

Vitale, who has had a medical practice on Oxford Street, appeared in Halifax provincial court Friday afternoon to face charges of making available, possessing and accessing child pornography.

 

Vitale had practised medicine in Nova Scotia since 1983, although his licence had been briefly suspended in 2013. His profile on RateMDs.com is full of glowing testimonials to his skill and manner.

 

Dr. Gus Grant, CEO of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, said the college was informed only "moments before" police issued a news release announcing Vitale's arrest Friday afternoon.

 

"These are extremely serious charges, especially given the fact that he's a pediatrician," said Grant.

 

The college immediately convened an investigative disciplinary hearing and suspended his licence indefinitely, Grant said.

 

Grant said he wouldn't second-guess the police decision to keep the college in the dark during the month-long investigation, as Vitale continued to practice.

 

He acknowledged the charges are the third time in two weeks a Halifax-area physician has been charged criminally.

 

Dr. Nebojsa Sparavalo was charged Feb. 16 with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old patient. On Wednesday, Sarah Dawn Jones was charged with drug trafficking after police accused her of prescribing 50,000 potent opiate pills to a hospital patient who never received them.

 

"I can't help but be disturbed, as anyone would be," Grant said of the spate of charges.

 

In December 2013, health officials suspended Vitale's medical licence after he was accused of improperly mixing vaccinations for about 500 toddlers.

 

"When vaccines that aren't meant to be mixed are mixed, it can compromise their effectiveness," Dr. Robin Taylor, medical officer of health for the Capital District Health Authority, told a 2013 news conference.

 

Taylor said health authorities asked parents to have their children re-vaccinated to protect them from a long list of preventable diseases, including measles, mumps, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, polio and rubella.

 

Grant said at the time the young patients were supposed to get two or three separate vaccinations during each visit to their doctor, but they received only one mixed dose instead.

 

Grant said it appeared the doctor wanted to reduce the pain caused by multiple injections.

 

Taylor said the province's Public Health Department learned of a similar incident in 2006, when health officials accused Vitale of mixing vaccines for seven patients.

 

In May 2015, Vitale was also reprimanded for prescribing medication for a family member while that relative was under the care of other health professionals. The college's investigations committee acknowledged "difficult personal factors," and that other treating health professionals were unavailable at the time.



    Editor:Justine | Source: The Canadian Press


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