Saturday, December 13, 2008


As the Canadian Press revealed in a story dated Friday, December 12, under the heading, "Review of pathologist's tests reveal different results..."An independent review of 23,000 tests done by a former Miramichi pathologist has found about a quarter of the retested samples show a "complete or partial change" in the results."

"The New Brunswick government revealed the results of the review of the tissue samples on Thursday in its response to an inquiry into the pathology lab at the Miramichi Regional Hospital," the story continued;

"A news release says the independent study showed different results in 5,286 tissue samples.

Of the 370 cases that had a complete change in findings - meaning a complete change in diagnosis - 101 involved cancer.

The remaining 4,916 "partial changes" in results meant the pathologist made some error in the report, ranging from a minor change to something that could affect a patient's treatment.

Meghan Cumby, a spokeswoman for the health minister, said the changes could be minor or "it might involve important data ... that could mean a change in the stage the cancer is at."

"It's information that could have been important to have," she added.

Earlier this week, a public inquiry by Justice Paul Creaghan was released into work done by Dr. Rajgopal Menon, the former chief pathologist at the hospital in northern New Brunswick.

The news release issued by the Health Department on Thursday does not mention Menon by name, but instead refers to a review of the work done by "a former Miramichi pathologist."

The review by Ottawa-based Gamma-Dynacare Medical Laboratories applied to procedures or tests in which tissue was removed from patients.

These included biopsies and surgical resection specimens. Blood work and X-rays were not looked at in the study.

An independent pathologist was also involved in the review of cases, where patients were tested primarily in 2006 and 2007.

Health Minister Michael Murphy said regional health authorities have "worked together to ensure that as many patients as possible were informed of their results before any announcement was made."

"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."

The public inquiry found Wednesday that Menon should have lost his licence in 2005, two years before he was suspended from working by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New Brunswick.

"Overall, we found that his service was unsatisfactory in terms of both attention to his duties and to the level of his performance," Creaghan wrote in his three-volume report.

Menon, who is now in his 70s, told reporters on Wednesday that his work was not as flawed as the inquiry was told and he questioned the way the hospital was managed.

"My rate of errors are much less than what you've seen in the (inquiry) report," he said.

Menon's lawyer, Rod Gillis, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

In his report, the retired judge also pinpointed a litany of systemic problems within New Brunswick's health care system and found that the Health Department had no idea whether pathology labs in the province were operating at acceptable levels of quality.

He said there has been no program of quality control in the pathology lab at the Miramichi Regional Hospital since 1994.

Menon worked at the Miramichi hospital from 1995 until early 2007, when his licence was suspended following complaints about incomplete diagnoses and delayed lab results.

It has since been reinstated but Menon must complete remedial training before he can return to the laboratory.

An audit of Menon's work earlier this year found 18 per cent of 227 breast and prostate cancer reports were incomplete and six per cent were incorrect.

Murphy said the government will reveal its full response to the inquiry report by mid-February, but "the hospital has already implemented some recommendations to ensure the integrity of its specimen analysis."

But he said some of the 52 recommendations will require consultations, while "others have significant financial implications for the province and must be carefully considered." "