One of the dozen-plus people who attended the Broken Trust protest Saturday morning said Errol Gaum’s pediactric dental clinic sounded more like a “torture chamber.”
“During my training, I was told if we heard screams in the reception area, we were to turn up the volume on the TV (or radio) so it would block the screaming from the parents,” said Kathy, who didn’t want her surname used.
She worked at the dental office on the Bedford Highway for only 10 days in the mid-2000s but it was long enough for her to surmise the children were not receiving proper care at the clinic.
“A parent asked me if I could check on their child,” Kathy said. “I walked past the reception desk, went down to check on the child. I was instructed when the dentist opened the door to never return to that room again.
“I was in shock. I used to work as a registered dental assistant. That’s not how dentistry should be for children, it’s all about comforting children. That sounded like a torture chamber.”
Horror stories from Gaum’s longtime pediatric dental career surfaced recently on the Victims of Errol Gaum Facebook group and in the mainstream media, prompting the Broken Trust protest in front of his Bedford Highway office.
Scott Wolfe, 39, told The Chronicle Herald earlier that when saw the photo of Gaum, his dentist from 30 years ago, circulating on social media that it sent chills down his spine.
Gaum was Wolfe’s dentist for three years and he said every visit was filled with pain. Wolfe remembers being pinned down by the dentist and his assistant as he sat in the chair. He recalls having allergies as a little boy and being threatened for breathing through his mouth, instead of his stuffed-up nose.
“They’d become incredibly rude and very disrespectful,” he said. “(They) told me that I’d be in a lot of trouble if I didn’t start breathing through my nose because I was steaming up their dental mirror.”
Wolfe would beg his mom every time not to go to the dentist.
Gaum’s licence was suspended earlier this week by the provincial dental board after an emergency meeting was called Wednesday night to discuss numerous complaints against him.
“I’m very happy that the dental board is actually listening to us and suspending his licence even though it should have been suspended long ago,” Ryan Binder told the Cape Breton Post.
Binder, a Cape Bretoner who believes Gaum hurt his six-year-old daughter, said the suspension is only the start and the group won’t stop until the dentist’s licence is revoked and his actions are criminally investigated.
A Halifax Regional Police spokesman confirmed that they are investigating “numerous reports that a man who was working as a dentist assaulted patients at numerous locations over a period of time from the 1970s to this year.”
Kathy said HRP has asked to speak with her.
Binder filed his complaint with the dental board last week after his daughter’s appointment with Gaum on Nov. 10. Binder’s mother took the girl to the appointment and told her son, as well as police, she could hear her granddaughter screaming from the waiting room. After the appointment, the girl was extremely upset and told her grandmother Gaum had held her down forcefully, put his hand over her mouth and nose and yelled at her to shut up.
Elsie Higgins of Halifax attended the protest Saturday and said her son visited Gaum at the dental clinic in the summer of 2013 when he was just 23 months old.
“He suffered abuse from Dr. Gaum,” Higgins said. “When we got him out of there he was marked up, finger nail marks on his chin, the side of his face, his shoulder, wrist and hands were marked.
“You could tell that he was restrained forcefully.”
Higgins said she had her son checked out by the family doctor and a pediatrician.
“I had taken pictures and I gave them to his pediatrician who gave them to the abuse team at the IWK. They did verify that it was signs of abuse.”
Higgins said she called the police, and went back and forth with the dental board for months.
“At the end of it, they said he would receive a reprimand.”
Higgins said her son doesn’t remember the episode, “which is a blessing,” but she would like to see Gaum’s “licence permanently revoked so that he can never hurt another child.”
Higgins said Gaum maintains the allegations are baseless.
“That’s hard to swallow,” Higgins said of Gaum’s dismissal of the dozens of accounts that have surfaced claiming malpractice.
Kathy points a finger directly at the dental board.
“Something needs to be done, the dental board ignored all these complaints, all these years,” she said. “I am holding them responsible.”