Government studying pathology report, following up on results of review (08/12/11)

NB 1806

Dec. 11, 2008

FREDERICTON (CNB) - The final report of a commission of inquiry into pathology services at the Miramichi Regional Hospital is being examined by the Government of New Brunswick.

Health Minister Michael Murphy made the announcement today. The Department of Health intends to respond by mid-February.

"Patient safety is and will always be a priority of our government and medical staff in Miramichi as well as all communities throughout New Brunswick," Murphy said. "This comprehensive report will be very useful to us in our efforts to ensure patients receive the best possible pathology services in our health-care system."

The report contains 52 recommendations for consideration by the Department of Health, the provincial government and stakeholders.

The hospital has already implemented some recommendations to ensure the integrity of its specimen analysis. These include continuously monitoring turnaround times; participating in the College of American Pathologists quality assurance program; and seeking second opinions from independent pathologists.

"Some of the recommendations require consultation between the province and key stakeholders, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick," Murphy said. "Others have significant financial implications for the province and must be carefully considered by the Department of Health and our government."

The minister also announced that a review of about 23,000 patient reports of a former Miramichi pathologist has determined that 5,286 had a complete or partial change in findings.

"Since this process began, the priority has been to ensure that patients whose tissue samples were interpreted by the former pathologist had confidence in the accuracy of their diagnoses," Murphy said.

Conducted by Ottawa-based Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories, the review applied to procedures or tests in which tissue was removed. These included biopsies and surgical resection specimens. Blood work and X-rays were not affected. An independent pathologist was also involved in the review of cases primarily from 2006 and 2007. Of the 370 cases that had a complete change in findings, 101 involved cancer.

"Regional health authorities A and B and family physicians have worked together to ensure that as many patients as possible were informed of their results before any announcement was made," Murphy said. "In some instances, however, it has been challenging to contact patients who have moved from the area. I encourage any patient with questions to contact his or her family doctor or referring surgeon."

In March, the Department of Health contracted the medical laboratory to re-examine pathology tests conducted by the former pathologist during his employment at the Miramichi Regional Hospital between 1995 and February 2007 and at the Edmundston Regional Hospital in 2002.

"Our government has absolute confidence in the pathology services now being provided by the dedicated professionals at the Miramichi and Edmundston regional hospitals," Murphy said. "Both hospitals are providing patients with quality pathology and laboratory services."

The minister announced the review and commission of inquiry in February. Headed by Justice Paul S. Creaghan, the commission had a mandate to:

Both measures were announced in light of the results of an independent audit of 226 patient reports by the former pathologist. Of those breast and prostate cancer biopsies, six per cent had been misdiagnosed and 18 per cent had incomplete results.

"I want to thank the pathology and laboratory staff at the Miramichi Regional Hospital and the Edmundston Regional Hospital for all they are doing to support current and former patients," Murphy said. "Their work to promote New Brunswickers' well-being will help us to ensure the sustainability of our health-care system and bring our province to self-sufficiency by 2026."


MEDIA CONTACT: Meghan Cumby, communications, Department of Health, 506-457-3522.