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Interior Health's top doc released on conditions after arrest on sex charges

Dix reacts to top doc arrest

UPDATE 6:10 p.m.

Health Minister Adrian Dix reacted Wednesday to the arrest of Interior Health’s chief medical officer on sex charges.

“These are serious charges, of course, and they are very concerning to us and for everyone at Interior Health in particular,” Dix told reporters in a scrum.

“The individual is now on leave, as you know it is obviously a police matter, and we are limited about what we can say as it works its way through the judicial system, as it should.”

Dix said Dr. Sue Pollock, who is taking over from Dr. Albert de Villiers on an interim basis, has held the position before and has the full confidence of the province.

“It won’t distract us at all and anyone at Interior Health from protecting people from COVID-19,” he said, calling Dr. Pollock an “outstanding leader.”

“I know she’ll continue to demonstrate, work hard as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in Interior Health and indeed across B.C.”

The Grande Prairie RCMP told CTV Vancouver that the charges are stemming from allegations unrelated to de Villiers' employment. He worked in Grande Prairie as the lead medical health officer for Alberta's North Zone, before taking the top doctor position in Interior Health in summer 2020.

Dr. de Villiers was released from custody on a number of conditions Wednesday morning. He's scheduled to next appear in court in Grande Prairie on June 30.


UPDATE: 1:25 p.m.

Interior Health has appointed Dr. Sue Pollock as a interim chief medical officer, following the arrest of former chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers Tuesday.

Dr. Pollock has worked as a medical health officer with Interior Health for several years. She will begin her role as interim chief on Monday, but IH says “temporary coverage is in place for the rest of the week.”

Dr. de Villiers was arrested Tuesday, and now faces charges of sexual assault and sexual interference of a person under the age of 16. The crimes are alleged to have occurred between June 15, 2018 and July 31, 2020 in Grande Prairie, Alta.

Dr. de Villiers had worked in Grande Prairie as the lead medical health officer for Alberta's North Zone, before taking the top doctor position in Interior Health in August 2020.

“As this is an ongoing police investigation we will not be providing further comment and inquiries should be directed to the RCMP,” Interior Health said in a statement Wednesday.

IH added that the chief medical health officer role is administrative in nature, and the person in that position does not interact with clients or patients.

Dr. de Villiers was released from custody on a number of conditions Wednesday morning. He's scheduled to next appear in court in Grande Prairie on June 30.


ORIGINAL: 12:15 p.m.

Interior Health's chief medical health officer was released from custody under a number of conditions Wednesday morning, after he was arrested Tuesday and charged with sex crimes.

Dr. Albert de Villiers, 52, was arrested in Kelowna Tuesday and charged with sexual assault and sexual interference against a minor, stemming from alleged incident in Grande Prairie Alberta between 2018 and 2020.

De Villiers had worked in Grande Prairie as the lead medical health officer for Alberta's North Zone, before taking the top doctor position in Interior Health in August 2020.

He spent Tuesday night in custody, but Judge Monica McParland granted his release during a short hearing in Kelowna court Wednesday morning.

The entire contents of Wednesday's hearing are protected under a publication ban. De Villiers attended the hearing by phone, which has been standard during the pandemic.

De Villiers bail conditions include not contacting or going near any witnesses or victims in the case, and not being in the presence of anyone under the age of 16, unless with an approved person.

He must also avoid any public parks, community centres, schools or daycares where people under the age of 16 may be, unless he's with an approved person. He was also required to surrender his passport to the RCMP.

Failure to comply with his release conditions could result in a $1,500 charge, along with possible additional breach charges.

With the two criminal charges stemming from Alberta, de Villiers is next scheduled to appear in court in Grande Prairie on June 30.

The details of the allegations remain unclear. A sexual interference charge relates to a victim who is under the age of 16, or under the age of 18 if the accused is in a position of trust or authority.

While the offences are alleged to have occurred between June 15, 2018 and July 31, 2020, the Grande Prairie RCMP said they were first made aware of the allegations on May 28 of this year.

Interior Health has removed de Villiers name from its website listing its medical health officers, and added Dr. Sue Pollock as "interim chief medical health officer." Dr. Pollock has been one of IH's medical health officers for a number of years.

Castanet is waiting to hear from Interior Health about the health authority's plans moving forward. De Villiers has played a large role in communicating Interior Health's pandemic response, meeting virtually with media on a weekly basis in recent months.



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