Health scare raises questions in Lloydminster

Lloydminster residents say they are shocked by Alberta's latest health scare, caused by improperly sterilized medical equipment at a local doctor's office.

Lloydminster residents say they are shocked by Alberta's latest health scare,caused byimproperly sterilized medical equipment at a local doctor's office.

TheCollege of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta investigated two obstetricians at the Lloyd Women's Clinic in the small Saskatchewan border city two years ago for allegedly not sterilizing instruments properly.

The investigation only recentlycame to light, after a hospital in Vegreville was all but shut down when officials found problems with its sterilization procedures, along with a superbug outbreak.

In both cases, patients are being told to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Residents of Lloydminster told CBC News that they are shocked by the newsand concerned it wasn't made public until Monday, after the college informed Alberta's health minister.

"There's all kinds of things that are being hidden, that we're not finding out about, until it's almost too late," Diana Mapletoft said.

"We pay a lot into Alberta health care and whatnot and I'd like to know where the money is going if they don't the proper equipment to sterilize and everything," added Debbie Short.

Both the hospital and the doctors' office are in the East Central Health region, which concerns Rosemary Ash.

"Should we maybe be looking at all the hospitals in this area? Should we maybe be reviewing sterilization techniques in east central region? I have a lot of questions, so I am very concerned."

No one got sick, Lloydminster doctor says

Dr. Musbah Abouhamra, who works at the clinic, confirmed to CBC News Tuesday that he and his wife, named in the Edmonton Journal as Turia Elghdewi, were the subjects of a complaint to the college. But he maintains there was no problem with his equipment and no one has become sick as a result.

However, on the advice of the college, he recently sent out letters to 261 patients advising them to get tested for HIV and hepatitis.

Dr. Trevor Theman, the registrar of the college, said the Lloydminster case is the first one he hasdealt with in his eight years with the college.

Physicians are responsible for the cleanliness of their equipment and the college will only investigate if there is a complaint, Theman said.

Hancock meets with Vegreville residents

Also on Tuesday, Health Minister Dave Hancock tried to calm fears in Vegreville, about 150 kilometres west of Lloydminster.

A team from the Health Quality Council of Alberta was in Vegreville last week to look into an MRSA outbreak at St. Joseph's hospital and shortcomings in the hospital's sterilization room, which is now closed.

At Chin's Restaurant, Hancock not only got coffee Tuesday, but also an earful from concerned residents.

"My wife had surgery three years ago and I had a grandson that had surgery," said one man. "Neither one of them has been contact to see whether they got any concern about their health."

"This hospital was ordered to cut a million dollars from its budget. Why? We are already behind, we are already suffering," said another.

Some asked Hancock to hold a public inquiry into what happened at the hospital, but he responded that it was not necessary at this time.

Sterilization room was supposed to be closed

The St. Joseph's sterilization room was supposed to be closed on Feb. 13 after a routine surgical audit uncovered problems.

But when the region's medical health officer went to the hospital on March 16 to investigate a superbug outbreak — seven patients in the 25-bed hospital contracted the infection over a one-month period beginning in mid-January — the room was still in operation, so he ordered it shut down.

The emergency room is open at the hospital, but it's not taking in-patients.

Health officials are checking records of hospital patients back to April 2003. Although they say the risk to patients is low, they are contacting those who were exposed to surgical equipment that had been inadequately sterilized, advising them to get tested for HIV and hepatitis B and C.

The first to be contacted will be those who had their tonsils removed, health officials say.