The Ontario government has appointed three doctors to investigate pathology reporting procedures at three Essex County hospitals, including the facility where a surgeon performed unnecessary mastectomies on at least two women.

Dr. Barry McLellan, formerly the province's chief coroner and now president of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, will co-ordinate the investigation, the Ministry of Health announced Monday.

Dr. Robin McLeod, a past president of the Canadian Association of General Surgeons, will focus on surgical errors.

Dr. John Srigley, a consultant pathologist at Credit Valley Hospital in Mississauga, will focus on pathology results. He's also with the provincial agency Cancer Care Ontario.

Health Minister Deb Matthews said the team will look into the treatment of patients at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital, Windsor Regional Hospital and Leamington District Memorial Hospital, reviewing recent reports of unnecessary surgery and errors in pathology reports, among other issues.

The province launched the investigation last week amid revelations that more incidents of unnecessary surgery and incorrect pathology reports might be uncovered.

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital is conducting an internal review into cases involving Dr. Barbara Heartwell, who performed two unnecessary mastectomies, in addition to a pathology review underway since November.

Ontario's medical regulatory body, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, has also launched its own probe.

A spokesman for Matthews said the provincial investigation will include two other hospitals because pathologist Olive Williams, who is currently under investigation by the college, had reports connected to all three hospitals.

Provincial probe to start with 3,000 tests

Williams was responsible for more than 15,000 pathology reports on patients since 2003, most of them for Hôtel-Dieu, which is now reviewing all of them.

Matthews told reporters the three doctors will focus on about 3,000 tests.

"If they feel they need to go further, then we'll talk about that then, but right now we're doing, on a priority basis, results over the last two years," she said.

Heartwell did most of her work at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital, but she also had privileges at Leamington District Hospital for about a month last winter.

McLellan said he hopes to have a final report to the minister of health by the end of June.