A search of a Prince Albert doctor's cell phone led to the list of charges he's now facing, including numerous allegations of sexual activity with patients.
Dr. Josias Furstenberg has been charged with unprofessional conduct in 11 separate instances including prescribing large quantities of opioids to a patient, accessing personal information without consent, and sharing photographs of patients. But the most serious of the charges are those of having sexual intercourse with five of his patients.
Bryan Salte, legal counsel and associate registrar with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan (CPSS), told paNOW they secured a search order for Furstenberg’s cell phone after a woman alerted them in February to her daughter's sexual activity with him.
“The information from the mobile phone did in fact then result in us contacting a number of individuals whose information was on that device, and that’s how the investigation unfolded,” he said.
Salte called the charges ‘very serious.’
“Any instance of course with allegations of inappropriate sexual relationship with a physician, whether that’s with one patient or five, is very serious, “he said. “But in particular, when there are a number of individuals who are said to be involved in a sexual relationship and there are other allegations of unprofessional conduct as well, that’s particularly serious.”
Salte said the charges cover a period from 2012 to 2016 and the college had acted quickly once the initial information came forward.
“We acted pretty quickly once we actually knew about it,” Salte said. “It’s the same as many of the other allegations we deal with from time time. If we’re not provided information about alleged unprofessional conduct of course there’s nothing we can do to miraculously know information that isn’t given to us.”
Salte said Furstenberg closed his practice in Prince Albert in the summer, has returned to South Africa and has not renewed his physicians licence. However, the discipline process will continue.
“It would be the same as any other physician who is charged with unprofessional conduct. Either they will admit the charge in which case it goes directly to a penalty hearing, or if they don’t admit the charge then it goes to a discipline committee to decide whether the conduct has been proved,” he said.
Salte said the allegations, although very serious, are associated with professional misconduct. When asked if there was any criminal activity involved, he said that was ‘unlikely.’
“There is nothing that we would have that would suggest the conduct in question was not consensual,” he said.
He added the college does not forward information directly to police so as to protect the personal health information of patients. However, if the college believed conduct to be potentially criminal, they can advise a patient to go to the police.
Furstenberg has retained the services of a lawyer, according to Salte, and the CPSS remains in regular contact with them. As the college awaits word on how Furstenberg will respond to the allegations Salte explained how things will unfold from here.
“It’ll be similar to all other allegations of unprofessional conduct, “he said. “We’ll determine whether we can reach an agreement for the admission to the charges and if not we’ll schedule a public hearing in the same way that other hearings are.”
In the meantime paNOW asked Salte if, given Furstenberg’s return to South Africa, the college had contacted their counterparts in that country about the serious charges.
“Yes we have. [But] to be blunt about it we’ve had inconsistent responses from the Health Professions Council of South Africa so I don’t know what, if anything, they’d do in this particular case.”
On Twitter: @princealbertnow
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