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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is it better to bring 8,000 individual cases?: Pathology errors in breast and prostate cancer biopsies

Patients impacted by a misdiagnosis and the quality of service at the Miramichi Regional Hospital will file a class-action suit on Tuesday.

Halifax lawyer Raymond Wagner will file the proposed lawsuit in Miramichi on Tuesday. It is available to any patients who had a biopsy or other procedure at the Miramichi Regional Hospital between 1995 and February 2007, regardless of their test results.

"They suffered great mental distress, frustration, and needless anxiety while awaiting confirmation that the original results were correct," he said.

The province is reviewing more than 23,700 cases from the hospital dating from 1995 to 2007 while a public commission is examining the rate of breast and prostate cancer misdiagnoses.

An independent audit of 227 cases of breast and prostate cancer biopsies from 2004-05 found 18% had incomplete results and 3% had been misdiagnosed at the health authority in northeastern New Brunswick, which was being served by a now-suspended pathologist.

Filing a lawsuit will hold the system accountable, Wagner said, adding that arguments revolve around allegations of negligent hiring and poor quality control at the pathology department.

"The suit of course is to assist the people in the community surrounding the Miramichi with respect to their health care," he said. "It is to bring to account the hospital administration with respect to oversight and quality control and to assure the community that their health care is of sufficient quality for them to have confidence in that health care."

A judge will have to decide if the suit will go ahead, which will involve testing whether the lawsuit is the most efficient way to proceed, Wagner said.

"Is it more appropriate and more efficient to have the case determined in one case, or is it better for everybody to bring their own individual cases, in other words 8,000 cases?" he said.

The Halifax law firm, Wagners, is working in co-operation with Newfoundland and Labrador firm Ches Crosbie Barristers.

Advice: Pathologists have to use very subjective judgments in assessing biopsies. Ask the pathologist how certain s/he is about the findings of your biopsy.

Read another Pathology error story.

The source article comes from a posting today on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's website.

1 comment:

Scott Hodson said...

Many hospitals and health systems are significantly underinvested in quality management Infrastructure, Process, and Organization. In order to reduce fragmentation and achieve breakthrough improvements in quality and patient safety, hospitals and health systems need to develop a "world class" quality management foundation that includes:

Strategy: including a clear linkage of quality and patient safety to the organizational strategy and a Board-driven imperative to achieve quality goals.

Infrastructure: incorporating effective quality management technology, EMR and physician order entry, evidence based care development tools and methodologies, and quality performance metrics and monitoring technology that enables "real time" information.

Process: including concurrent intervention, the ability to identify key quality performance "gaps," and performance improvement tools and methodologies to effectively eliminate quality issues.

Organization: providing sufficient number and quality of human resources to deliver quality planning and management leadership, adequate informatics management, effective evidence based care and physician order set development, performance improvement activity, and accredition planning to stay "survey ready every day."

Culture: where a passion for quality and patient safety is embedded throughout the delivery system and leaders are incented to achieve aggressive quality improvement goals.

My firm has assisted a number of progressive health systems to achieve such a foundation, and to develop truly World Class Quality.