Nfld. & Labrador

Another Eastern Health pathologist quits

Another pathologist at Eastern Health has quit amid the scandal from the public inquiry into faulty breast cancer treatment testing.

CBC News has learned yet another pathologist at Eastern Health has quit, as the scandal from the public inquiry into faulty breast cancer treatment testing continues.

Dr. Dan Fontaine, a pathologist specializing in cervical cancer, resigned Monday.

Fontaine is the third pathology specialist to leave the health authority since the inquiry began.

In April, Dr. Beverley Carter resigned, and a second pathologist went on stress leave.

The Newfoundland Medical Association is blaming stress from the breast cancer testing inquiry for the most recent resignation.

Dr. Joseph Tumility, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, said Fontaine left because of stress from the breast cancer testing inquiry.

"He's been looking for some time, in terms of doing locums in other provinces, and has been thinking about leaving for a number of months at least, and has come to the decision that he can't practice in this environment anymore," Tumility said.

Peter Dawe, director of the Cancer Society, said he finds the news "startling."

"Losing another position, and from what I understand, a well-respected pathologist who's a leader in the province, that's going to hurt, and it causes concern," Dawe told CBC News.

Dawe said he's worried that with three pathologists now out of the picture, cancer patients will face increasing wait times for test results.

"From a cancer patient perspective, the timeliness of getting tests back is important. At some point, you're talking about a clinical difference, so that if it takes too long, it could actually affect your outcome.

"The psychological pain and angst of waiting for a timely test result — I think that's the area we're in now if test results start getting delayed by a week or two weeks," Dawe said, adding he didn't believe the situation had come to that yet.

Potential backlog in testing

Dr. Nash Denic, Eastern Health's chief of laboratory medicine, echoed Dawe's concern about a backlog.

When Carter resigned in early April, Denic said it meant Eastern Health would have to send complicated breast cancer samples out of the province for analysis. As well, he warned of broader problems for cancer patients.

"If we don't deal with this in advance, we can expect a backlog and increased turnaround time," Denic said during a press conference April 16.

Eight of the 19 pathologist positions at Eastern Health are now vacant.

Corrections

  • Dr. Joseph Tumility is not the executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, as originally reported. He is the president of the association.
    May 01, 2008 1:10 PM NT

now