At least one patient's treatment was affected by a radiologist's error, says a chief doctor at Trillium Health Partners, where an external review is checking the results of 3,500 CT scans and mammograms.
The review covers the work of radiologist Dr. Ivo Slezic at the Mississauga Hospital and the Queensway Health Centre in Toronto from April 1, 2012, to March 31, 2013.
"There is one patient that has been notified that had a clinically significant event," said Dr. Dante Morra, chief of medical staff at Trillium Health Partners, who spoke to the patient. "I think it was difficult for that patient."
An internal review at the hospital identified three interpretive errors. While the other two patients were fine, the timing and treatment of the third was affected, Morra said.
Dr. Dina Reiss, a doctor of internal medicine who worked at Trillium, said she is telling her patients not to be "too paranoid."
Reiss said that radiologists, who are charged with looking at a scan and interpreting the results, are highly trained doctors.
"They've gotten a ton of training. They have their medical training, they've done a residency, they've passed their boards and their exams," she told CBC News in an interview on Thursday. "And with medicine, there are a lot of grey areas. As doctor, if I'm not sure, I will talk to other doctors. It's the same with a radiologist. If I were the radiologist and [the results weren't definite], I would consult other doctors."
Although she has told her patients not to worry too much, she admits it could make many people scared.
"The unfortunate thing is with cancer, if you don't catch it right away, it's not a good thing," said Reiss. "Unfortunately, when a patient comes in and gets a scan read and he's told, 'You’re completely fine' and then — this has happened to a few patients — you have to go back and say ‘Ooh, there was something there,' it's not a good thing."
Medical malpractice lawyer Paul Harte is fielding calls from concerned patients and has consulted with one family.
"In this particular case, the patient was ultimately diagnosed with lung cancer and they were suspicious as to whether or not that cancer was apparent in an an earlier CT, which had been interpreted by this doctor as normal."
All of the patients involved have been notified by letter. More than 3,000 patients have been affected, including 189 people who had multiple scans, spokeswoman Carol Kotecka said.
Patients with any concerns can call Trillium.
Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.:
Physicians have their own dedicated line to Trillium.
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Trillium Health has launched an external review team, led by Dr. Brian Yemen, chief of diagnostic imaging, Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre and McMaster University Medical Centre at Hamilton Health Sciences.
Yemen said he appreciates how difficult the news is for patients and families.
"We are doing everything we can to complete the review quickly and properly," Yemen said in an interview. "Really my job is to make sure the patients have received the right care, and if they haven't, then to identify and take the proper steps immediately."
Review could expand
Deb Matthews, Ontario's health minister, said Thursday she was confident cases "are being reviewed as quickly as possible so that followup care can be provided."
Yemen said today that the review will be done in about six weeks. As many as 17 radiologists on the review team will start with the most recent cases where there's probably the biggest potential impact on patient care, he said.
'My job is to make sure the patients have received the right care, and if they haven't, then to identify and take the proper steps immediately.' — Dr. Brian Yemen
They will base their work on a U.S. radiology college's acceptable error rate of about two per cent, because an error rate higher than that raises flags, Yemen said.
Yemen said the scope of the review could expand if needed.
The head of the hospital issued an apology and said the hospital will follow up directly with all patients as soon as their tests have been reviewed.
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"We apologize for any concern the news of this review may cause and want our patients and community to know it is being done to ensure the highest quality of care at our hospital," said Michelle DiEmanuele, chief executive of Trillium Health.
Dr. Mark Prieditis, president of the Ontario Association of Radiologists, said the group support's the hospital's decision to conduct a review.
"Maintaining the trust and confidence of our patients is vitally important to us," Prieditis said in a statement. "While we await Dr. Yemen's findings, it would be imprudent to rush to judgment. This situation is complicated and requires due consideration by leading experts in diagnostic imaging."
Harte said the hospital is to commended for conducting an investigation, but he has some concerns about why it took almost five months to notify patients who may have time-sensitive illnesses such as cancer.