On April 12 a Fredericton law firm filed a class-action lawsuit against Dr. Manoj Bhargava, formerly employed at the UNB Student Health Center, and UNB, on behalf of plaintiff Morgan Jean Wilcox.
In November of last year, the College of Physicians and Surgeons suspended Bhargava’s license after receiving several complaints about him. Dr. Ed. Schollenberg, registrar at the College, explained that they had received multiple complaints about Bhargava, with some coming in as recently as April 12.
“He was suspended in November, when we had a small number of complaints. Those have steadily increased since then, in fact, getting one most recently just yesterday. So, I think we are up to about 18,” explained Dr. Schollenberg. “That goes through an investigation which might eventually lead to a hearing, but it’s not going very quickly.”
Dr. Schollenberg explained that the complainants varied in age and location, which contributed to the seriousness of the allegations.
“We suddenly knew we had a big problem,” he explained. “As far as [we] know, these people didn’t know each other. Some of these were students some years ago. They weren’t even hanging around campus, and some of them were spread across the country.”
Many of the complainants were first-year students who went to the UNB Student Health Center and Dr. Bhargava seeking support and care.
“They had gone to a doctor with a problem, and their problems were generally emotional. These are often first-year students. Basically the world falling in on them completely. And they got access to a psychiatrist,” explained Dr. Schollenberg, “and then he takes advantage of them.”
Dr. Schollenberg explained that Dr. Bhargava would schedule his appointments at the end of the day, when less people were at the Health Center.
“He often saw them as the last appointment of the day when everybody else from the clinic was gone. He would often tell them what he would like to wear the next time. So, most of them took that at face value, but you know in hindsight you can sort of see what he's up to,” explained Dr. Schollenberg.
The College felt that the allegations against Dr. Bhargava could be seen as criminal, and contacted the authorities to voice this concern.
“We had contacted them, we thought the behavior was such that it could constitute a criminal offense,” explained Dr. Schollenberg.