Nfld. & Labrador

Near misses, staff concerns being addressed at St. John's lab, says Eastern Health

Newfoundland and Labrador's largest health authority says it is correcting serious problems that were identified last fall at a laboratory in St. John's.
An update to a recent report on the state of an Eastern Health lab in St. John's says that problems are being addressed and 'near misses' have been eliminated. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's largest health authority says it is correcting serious problems that were identified last fall at a laboratory in St. John's.

CBC News has obtained both that report and a recent update, through an access to information request.

The initial report found that quality assurance concerns in the immunohistochemistry lab had gone up 400 per cent during the previous month.

In a written update released this month, the report's author stated that Eastern Health is addressing staffing concerns and has ordered an external audit of the lab.

It also says the wait times for test results have decreased and near-misses have been eliminated.

Eastern Health CEO David Diamond said there has been no issue with information provided to patients, and the review is about improving the lab's practices.

"In all of the reviews that we've had done since October, there's been no indication of any harm to patients whatsoever," Diamond told a news conference Thursday.

"So this is not about harm to patients, this is really about quality improvement and looking at recommendations as to how we can always continue to be better."

Eastern Health says it will be implementing a number of changes in the innumohistochemistry lab, including an in-house training program that will be jointly developed with academic centres.

The health authority will also conduct an analysis into workload and staffing in the lab to ensure the necessary resources are available.

A medical director for the lab will also be appointed, as outlined in the recommendations.

"Providing safe, quality care is a priority for Eastern Health that requires sustained focus on quality improvement work," Dr. Oscar Howell, vice president with responsibility for Laboratory Medicine, said in a statement.

"That is why we are committed to addressing concerns as they arise, and working with the University Health Network, one of the most reputable laboratories in the country, to ensure a high quality laboratory service for the clients we serve."

Addressing 'red flags'

The author of the report released last fall described it as a "red flag" — a warning that problems in the lab were putting patients at risk.

The report detailed near-misses that were caught, mistakes it says could have harmed patients by leading to a misdiagnosis of cancer or an incorrect treatment.

The report went on to say that staff are frustrated and feel abandoned by the leadership.

The lab experienced a 100 per cent increase in workload in the past three years while personnel has dropped by 20 per cent.

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