Cancer MD resigns administrative posts after review

The head of the radiation oncology department at CancerCare Manitoba has resigned from his administrative post following two reviews of his work, CBC News has learned.
Head of radiation oncology at CancerCare Manitoba has resigned from his administrative post following two reviews of his work. 2:23

The head of the radiation oncology department at CancerCare Manitoba has resigned from his administrative post following two reviews of his work, CBC News has learned.

In a statement, CancerCare says it initiated a "clinical practice review of a radiation oncologist in response to an internal complaint received on July 20, 2012."

The statement does not identify the doctor, but CBC News has learned he is Dr. Ethan Lyn, the clinical director for radiation oncology.

CancerCare Manitoba president and CEO Dr. Dhali Dhaliwal said one of the investigations was into Dr. Lyn's work as an administrator, while the other looked at his clinical work in radiation therapy.

While some issues were identified with Lyn's administrative work, there is no evidence patient care was adversely affected, Dhaliwal said.

Lyn was recruited to Manitoba from the Mount Vernon Hospital in London, England, in 2008, where he was a consultant clinical oncologist. In 2010, CancerCare Manitoba promoted him to head of the radiation oncology department.

Focusing on clinical practice

CancerCare says the oncologist is resigning from his administrative role to focus on clinical practice.

Dhaliwal said the issues in the administrative review are human resource matters and are confidential.

"Not all physicians are cut out to be outstanding administrators," Dhaliwal said in an interview.

Dhaliwal says two independent, nationally-respected radiation oncologists from outside the province were asked to review Lyn's work, and the summary of their findings shows no problems with patient care.

Dhaliwal said he asked for the external review based on concerns raised by doctors who conducted an informal review of Lyn's cases.

"There may have been some cases where things could've been done better. We need more details on that," Dhaliwal said.

Care not compromised

CancerCare is still waiting for the final report, but Dhaliwal said the reviewer indicated that no patient's clinical care was compromised and clinical outcomes were not affected.

Dhaliwal said cases that were reviewed were chosen at random from the oncologist's work in the past 18 months and represent about 25 per cent of his annual case load.

When asked about the physician's use of radiation treatment, Dhaliwal said the reviewers "felt that the physician exercised appropriate care in avoiding damage to normal tissue. This is an experienced physician."

"The reviewers indicated that the physician displayed sound clinical judgment and wherever radiation was recommended it was appropriate, and wherever radiation was not recommended, it was appropriate," Dhaliwal said.

The reviewers, he added, "found that the physician displayed sound knowledge of radiation oncology and oncology in general, and he was found to have mature judgment and took extra care in ensuring that damage to normal tissues does not occur."

Dhaliwal said the reviewers noted it is not uncommon for oncologists to have differing opinions of cases, and that's why outside expert opinion was sought.

"If you subject any practice to review, you will find a certain variation of opinion," Dhaliwal said.

"This physician has impeccable background, and trained and was at one of the major institutes in radiation in the world," he added.

Patient's husband demands answers

A Winnipeg man whose wife was a patient at CancerCare says he would like to know more about what's happening.

Ken Harder's wife, Val, died last year after battling lung cancer.

"Radiation, from what I know, was supposed to kill the tumor," Harder told CBC News.

Harder said his wife kept a daily journal of her treatment and was initially given a positive prognosis. The journal shows her radiation oncologist used the word "cure" at their first meeting.

But following 33 radiation and chemotherapy treatments, things started to get serious.

"I would like some answers … why it went from treatable to terminal in such a short period of time," Harder said.

Recruitment is now underway to find a replacement for Dr. Lyn as the head of radiation oncology.

Dr. Lyn did not respond to an interview request from CBC News.