As Susan Conway waited for her daughter to be treated at Hawkesbury and District General Hospital, she expressed more concern about safety over the recent COVID-19 outbreaks than news that a doctor has been charged with first-degree murder.
But while the arrest this week of Dr. Brian Nadler won’t deter Conway or her family from using the hospital, she also told CBC News on Saturday that the murder charge revelation has certainly rocked the small community of Hawkesbury, which is located between Ottawa and Montreal, and the surrounding area.
“The community is learning about this, and everyone is in shock and disbelief,” said Conway, who worked 15 years as an OPP dispatcher. “You don’t think about this [happening] in this close-knit town.
“Just horrible, just horrible. And I feel for the family of this poor soul who has been taken.”
WATCH | Hawkesbury residents react to doctor’s murder charge:
Residents of the town, which has a population of about 10,000, say they’re stunned by the arrest and word that Ontario Provincial Police are still investigating multiple “suspicious deaths” at the hospital.
It’s kind of like a cultural shock to hear these things happen here, too.– Elian Renaud, Hawkesbury resident
But most of those interviewed by CBC News also said they’ll continue to use the hospital — a bilingual, 100-bed facility with a range of programs and services from its main campus in Hawkesbury, and two satellite centres in Clarence-Rockland and Casselman.
Nadler, a specialist in internal medicine, was arrested Thursday evening. The 35-year-old, who lives in Dollard-Des-Ormeaux, Que., appeared in court on Friday and was charged with one count of first-degree murder. As of early Sunday, police hadn’t provided details about the deceased person or how many deaths they’re investigating.
“Its complete crazy, for a small town,” said resident Suzie Lalonde. “Everybody talking about it.”
Elian Renaud said these are the kind of stories you hear coming out of big cities like Ottawa, Montreal or Toronto.
“You’re from a small town, everyone here knows each other and nothing ever happens in this town, crazy like that,” he said. “It’s kind of like a cultural shock to hear these things happen here, too.”
2 COVID-19 outbreaks
The murder case is another black mark this month for the hospital, which was also hit by two COVID-19 outbreaks.
Earlier this week, the hospital confirmed 16 patients and five staff had tested positive for COVID-19, and five deaths have been linked to the virus.
Conway, who has lived in the area all her life, said the redevelopment of the hospital and how it’s been “built up all brand new,” along with the addition of more specialists, have been “wonderful for the whole community.”
But now, local officials are being forced to focus on the arrest of one of its doctors and assuage fears.
On Friday, Hawkesbury Mayor Paula Assaly asked people to remain calm and not be afraid to seek care at the hospital.
The next day, OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson told CBC News that, for the people of Hawkesbury, “this is a traumatic experience for everyone.”
WATCH | OPP spokesperson speaks on how the murder investigation is affecting families:
Retiree Ana Lecuyer had recently been transferred to the Hawkesbury hospital for her three-times-a-week dialysis treatment, a welcome development that meant she no longer had to make the hour-plus trek to Ottawa.
She has nothing but praise for the facility, but the murder charge has left her shaken.
I’m stressed out. It bothers me a lot.– Ana Lecuyer, on learning about police investigation
“I didn’t want to come back to the hospital,” she said. “I’m stressed out. It bothers me a lot.”
Carole Gocmanac, however, says she has complete confidence in the safety of her former mother-in-law, who is 99 and currently in the Hawkesbury hospital.
“Her family’s always there,” said Gocmanac, who praised the hospital, and its staff and cleanliness.
Guylaine Lafrance also expressed support for the hospital, but raised concerns over its due diligence in checking the work history, or “the priors,” of doctors.
During Nadler’s residency at the University of Saskatchewan’s medical school from July 2014 to September 2018, he faced two unprofessional conduct charges, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan has said.
Documents show one charge was for allegedly calling a female colleague a “bitch” after an argument and telling someone else he “felt like slapping” that colleague. Another charge involved patient record-keeping. But the college didn’t pursue the charges after Nadler apologized and took a couple of courses.
Chris Bennett, who also was a patient at the Hawkesbury hospital, suggested it’s too early to determine whether officials there should have done a more thorough background check on the doctor.
“You can maybe understand the need for doctors,” he said. “They’re not going to turn away anybody if it’s something that was minor there.”