It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone in Ottawa.
When the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario finally released the list of private clinics that failed their inspection, it included one Ottawa endoscopy clinic that was already the subject of a rare public warning in 2011. The 2011 warning suggested that patients of the private endoscopy clinic may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C as a result of equipment that may not have been properly sterilized.
After nearly 7,000 patients were asked to get tested, five were found to have contracted either hepatitis B or C. The five are part of a larger class action against the clinic, although connecting their disease to unsanitary equipment may be difficult to prove.
Given everyone knew the list of clinics that failed inspection would soon be made public, it is curious that Dr. Jack Kitts, CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, should suggest during the same week that he intended to divest 5,000 endoscopies a year from the hospital to private clinics. Perhaps unfairly, the question must have been none-the-less on everyone’s mind: divest to clinics like this?
An endoscope is a diagnostic procedure that inserts a camera inside the body with a flexible tube to look at internal organs.
This week’s disclosure by the College gives us a view of the clinic that goes well beyond the issue of improper sterilization.
The report noted that the registered nurse was preoccupied with advancing the scope and not recording vital signs. The College suggests patients and staff of the clinic may have been exposed to potentially toxic fumes and that single-use items were being re-used. Further, the report noted the premises were “cramped and cluttered, especially in the procedure room,” which would have made it difficult to transfer the patient in the event of an emergency.
Or this: “During the procedure the physician used the biopsy forceps to obtain a specimen. However, after she took the biopsy, she dipped the biopsy forceps in formalin to get rid of the specimen and then re-insert the same forceps into the patient’s esophagus without first rinsing it in water. (Formaldehyde is known to be harmful to human health due to its carcinogenic properties.) This practice must be stopped immediately before causing more harm to the patients.”
Given the release of these details, it’s hard to understand how Dr. Jack Kitts could consider this to be a good week to suggest the hospital should be divesting more endoscopies, unless of course, the plan was to deliberately stir up opposition in the hopes of obtaining more funding from the province.
Coupled with the fact that Kitts would make a specific recommendation to transfer services without public consultation or his failure to undertake the steps necessary towards a formal integration process leads us to wonder what’s up here?
His words would suggest he is playing along with the Province’s divestment agenda, but actions would suggest the hospital is going about it so badly as to drive opposition and provide significant ammunition to stop the cuts.