Pathology program put under review

Manitoba's pathology program is under review for the second consecutive year after a pathologist's report alleged unsafe workloads in provincial labs could be putting patients at risk.

Report claims workload and staffing issues putting patients at risk

Former pathologist Dr. David Grynspan has quit his job and filed a report outlining concerns about the work environment at provincial labs. ((CBC))
Manitoba's pathology program is under review for the second consecutive year after a pathologist's report warned unsafe workloads in provincial labs could be putting patients at risk.

Former Health Sciences Centre pathologist Dr. David Grynspan outlined several concerns in a report sent at the end of November to the board of Diagnostic Services Manitoba (DSM), the not-for-profit corporation responsible for all of Manitoba's public laboratory services.

Grynspan, who quit his job over the issues, alleges in the report that a staff shortage has caused pathologists to work long hours and juggle many responsibilities.

He noted that one colleague was working 160 hours per week — the equivalent of four full-time jobs.

"This cannot be safe and indeed, it culminated into an issue of critical harm to a patient of which I was intimately involved," Grynspan told CBC News.

He said he can't reveal details about the case because of confidentiality issues, but added it's an example of the dangers arising from what he called a toxic work environment at DSM.

Manitoba's pathology program is under review after a report alleged patient safety is at risk due to understaffing. ((CBC))
He said he tried to raise the issue with his superiors but nothing changed, so he wrote the report, which also alleges the situation has led to some pathologists resigning and others taking early retirement.

Grynspan is now part of the alleged exodus. After working as a pediatric pathologist in the province for 2½ years, he is moving to Ottawa to work in a children's hospital. He starts his new job in January.

Arlene Wilgosh, the province's deputy minister of health and the DSM board chair, concedes the allegations are serious and an external investigation will look into them.

Wilgosh, who doesn't believe patient safety is at risk, said the findings of the investigation will be made public and dealt with in an open and transparent manner.

"We are putting in place an external investigation to take a look at the information that has been brought forward to determine if there are problems and how we might address those problems," she said.

"Patient safety is the board's No. 1 concern. I will be informed immediately if there any patient concern issues that are brought forward through the investigation and we will take action immediately to address those."

Wilgosh said there are currently eight vacant positions in Manitoba for pathologists and 46 currently employed.

Pathologist's mistakes reviewed in 2008

A pathologist was put on leave by DSM in the spring of 2008 and an in-depth review was conducted after errors were discovered in the person's work during a quick review.

According to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) at the time, the pathologist made errors in seven of 35 selected complex cases looked at during the quick review.

Of 107 randomly selected general cases from February, two reports had to be amended.

Following the in-depth review that examined 822  cases, errors were found in 42 cases — two requiring further treatment. But that number was considered within the average rate of errors, health officials said.

The pathologist did not return to work, however, choosing instead to retire.