N.B. doctor blamed for cluster of COVID-19 cases won’t be charged: lawyer
HALIFAX -- Sometime in the last two months, Dr. Jean Robert Ngola had to move to an undisclosed location for his own safety, says his lawyer.
The Campbellton, N.B., doctor was the health-care worker blamed for causing a COVID-19 outbreak in the region after returning to New Brunswick from Quebec and not self-isolating in May.
But on Wednesday, lawyer Joel Etienne says his client won't be facing criminal charges.
"The policing authorities reached out and they advised the legal defense team and the good doctor himself that they wouldn’t be laying any criminal charges in relation to this matter," Etienne said. "We weren’t surprised because all in all and in every stage of this process we really believed that there had been no criminal behaviour."
Etienne says their own investigation revealed Dr. Ngola was not "patient zero" and that contact tracing proved none of the individuals he came into contact with in Quebec had the virus.
"The only logical conclusion is that he contracted the disease within the province," Etienne said. "Approximately 20 primary health-care workers were coming into New Brunswick from outside the province and engaging in their professional endeavours, without self-quarantining first. Some of them (from) as far as Montreal."
They're calling on Premier Blaine Higgs to issue a public apology to the doctor, but on Wednesday afternoon, Higgs said "I stand behind my comments I made earlier."
When the outbreak in Campbellton was realized, Higgs said it was linked to an "irresponsible" medical professional who was not forthcoming about their reasons for travel upon returning to New Brunswick from Quebec and did not self-isolate.
"I was concerned about the protocols being followed," Higgs said. "I think that Vitalite has done a lot of research in that regard. We've had a lot of lessons learned from that experience in Campbellton."
Etienne says Dr. Ngola has already had a difficult career.
He began as an emergency doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He retrained when he left for Belgium, and again when he came to Canada.
Ngola had a practice of about 2,000 patients in Campbellton, but has been suspended from his duties by Vitalite Health Network.
The RCMP say the investigation into the situation is still ongoing.