Errors in a controversial review of radiology reports can be traced to its rushed pace, the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association says.
The Eastern Health regional authority admitted this week that it missed more than 1,100 records— including X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds— involved in the review of a work of a suspended radiologist.
Eastern Health completed its review in early June, within a two-week deadline that had been imposed by Health Minister Ross Wiseman. The authority assigned the review to almost two dozen other radiologists within its jurisdiction.
NLMA president Dr. Joseph Tumilty— who issued a warning in May on behalf of radiologists he represents that the two-week deadline was too harsh— told CBC News that the mess revealed this week could have been avoided.
"We felt that it was more important to get the accurate results as quickly as possible without necessarily sticking to a particular timeline," Tumilty said.
In late May, after Eastern Health announced it had suspended a radiologist practising at the Burin Peninsula Health Care Centre and was reviewing thousands of his records, Wiseman told the authority to complete the work within two weeks.
Eastern Health said it had finished the work by June 8 and was proceeding to have patients contacted.
On Wednesday, interim chief executive officer Louise Jones said at least 1,100 records were missed during the review.
The 4,600 records that had been reviewed had been billed to medicare and other records— such as those paid for by the workers' compensation system— were overlooked.
Tumilty said the authority ought to have taken a more thorough approach.
"You know, we're … five or six weeks now into this, and still not complete…. The main message that we have here is that the patients are still very anxious and are upset waiting for the results," he said.
Colleagues raised concerns
Eastern Health suspended radiologist Fred Kasirye after colleagues raised concerns about the quality of his work.
Haydyn Petten, 76, a resident of the south coast town of Garnish, said he doesn't trust what Eastern Health has to say in the wake of the latest revelations.
"They're not being fair with the people, not beinghonest," said Petten, who is skeptical about the quality of his own radiology results.
"How can you [trust officials] when you get the minister of health on television a month to six weeks ago, saying all reports have been reread, [and] now he gets on… saying there's another 1,100," Petten said.
"So when's he going to come on next week, the week after, and say, 'B'y, we still got another 500 to do, or we got another thousand to do. They're not being upfront."
Judy Foote, the Liberal representative for Grand Bank district in the house of assembly, said frustrations are mounting around the Burin Peninsula.
"There's no level of comfort here at all with the latest news," she told CBC News.
"The way it's being handled, people are saying it sounds like the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing and we're talking health-care issues here," she said.
"These are life and death issues, and people are worried."
Wiseman has said responsibility for what he calls a mishandled review rests squarely with Eastern Health.
On Monday, the authority— which has been under fire for how it handled flawed laboratory tests involving hundreds of breast cancer patients— announced that chief executive officer George Tilley had resigned.
Wiseman has said he confronted Tilley last week over the radiology review, but insists he did not call on Tilley to step down.