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Health officials apologize for radiologist scandal

Public given opportunity to voice questions and concerns
Health officials apologize for radiologist scandal

by Kyle Wells Community members gathered recently to hear from and ask questions of representatives from Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) over the radiologist scandal.

In February, BC ministry of health revealed that Dr. Mansukhlal Mavji (Charlie) Parmar read CT scans between April and October 2010 at Powell River General Hospital, despite being unqualified and subject to a voluntary restriction. A report written by BC Patient Safety and Quality Control Chair Dr. Doug Cochrane, released in early October, revealed that as a result of misreadings nine people in Powell River had their health care “compromised.” Cancer, or the spreading of cancer, went undetected in three of those nine people.

VCH organized the community forum at Brooks Secondary School on October 24 to explain to the public recommendations of the report and what VCH is doing to follow up on those recommendations. The meeting also gave people in the community an opportunity to voice their concerns and ask questions.

Dr. David Ostrow, CEO of VCH, started the evening off by saying that they were there to hear stories and to apologize to the entire community. Ostrow also explained the importance of trust in the health care system and VCH’s commitment to regaining that trust.

“It may seem flippant to you, but we actually feel in ways as violated as you do by this whole series of events,” said Ostrow. “You need to know that we are partners with you in this healing process.”

VCH officials could not speak about individual cases in the public setting due to privacy rules, but they did talk extensively about how VCH is moving forward. Dr. Patrick O’Connor, vice-president of medicine, quality and safety, spoke to the steps VCH is taking to implement the recommendations made by Cochrane.

Six of Cochrane’s 35 recommendations are specific to VCH and primarily concern peer reviews, information sharing and physician reviews. Systems for double checking and auditing both credentials and test results were not in place, something VCH is in the process of changing. There will be regional departments, one of which will be medical imaging, which will mean that single-staffed medical departments in rural hospitals will be more accountable to a larger body.

A provincial peer review system for not only CT scans, but also MRIs (magnetic resonance images) and ultrasounds, is in the works and should be in place in the new year. This system, which will not rely on physicians coming forward to report inconsistencies, should help the authority to notice irregularities in readings faster. Physician reviews and data will now also be more centralized, easier to access and will include voluntary undertakings in the yearly credentialing process.

“This should never have happened, as we all indicated,” said Dr. Bruce Forster, regional medical director of medical imaging. “And our commitment here is that it will never happen again in Powell River or in any other community within Vancouver Coastal Health. That’s what we’re working toward.”

VCH also apologized for the delay between VCH finding out about the problem and notifying those people potentially affected. Ostrow said a number of things went wrong during the process and that VCH made the wrong decision when it did not tell patients it was investigating the possibility of some misread CT scans.

“In retrospect now that was absolutely too long, way, way too long,” said Ostrow. “We thought ‘well let’s see what the nature of the problem is and then we’ll tell people.’ And that was a mistake.”

Joan Graham, daughter of John Moser who died from cancer in January and had a scan misread by Parmar, attended the meeting. She asked a number of questions and said to the Peak that she found the meeting helpful. She believes, however, that VCH still needs to establish an independent review system.

“I appreciate them coming,” said Graham. “I totally respect them for that and I respect the honesty. I just really think that it’s necessary that they start looking outside of in-house.”

VCH officials said that dialogues will continue in the future.