Affected patients being contacted after high error rate discovered for pathologist at Grey Bruce Health Services

    OWEN SOUND, ON, May 1 /CNW/ - Grey Bruce Health Services (GBHS) is
notifying patients whose diagnosis or treatment might have been affected by
errors discovered in the work of one of its three pathologists,
Dr. Barry Sawka. Dr. Sawka stopped practicing in mid-February and continues
not to practice at the hospital.
    The high error rate was confirmed Wednesday evening in a report received
by GBHS from external reviewers at London Health Sciences Centre, confirming
findings of a GBHS internal review of Dr. Sawka's cases. The GBHS review was
triggered in February following a routine quality assurance test which
identified an error in one of Dr. Sawka's findings.
    When further investigation indicated the error might not be an isolated
one, Dr. Sawka was asked to voluntarily withdraw from practice immediately,
and he did so. GBHS immediately initiated an internal review, with the
hospital's two other pathologists reviewing 600 of Dr. Sawka's most recent
cases, from 2007 and 2008.
    This review confirmed an error rate of 6 percent compared to a
literature-reported error rate for pathologists of 1.0 percent. The review
also found the errors have the potential to have altered the further
investigation or treatment of patients and include missing cancer diagnoses.
Approximately 30 percent of a pathologist's workload involves determining a
cancer diagnosis. GBHS is not aware of any deaths as a result of the errors.
    "Grey Bruce Health Services offers its sincere apologies to patients and
their families who have been affected by these errors or who will be anxious
until they know whether or how they have been affected," said Pat Campbell,
President and CEO of GBHS. "Because of our commitment to patient safety and
transparency, we are advising the public immediately after receiving external
confirmation of the errors. We will work as quickly as possible to identify
any other cases where errors may have been made."
    The hospital has started to contact patients whose cases were among the
600 involved in the internal review. Necessary courses of action will be
determined by the patients' physician or surgeon.
    Dr. Sawka has been a pathologist at GBHS since 1994, evaluating
approximately 3,000 cases a year for a total of approximately 40,000 during
his tenure. Specimens from all these cases remain available for reevaluation.
GBHS will be undertaking an external review of the pathology reports completed
by Dr. Sawka, beginning with the most recent cases. Because these patients
have been treated for a problem quite recently, there is a higher likelihood
they will benefit from any need to undergo further diagnostic tests or change
their treatment. GBHS is completing the list of the patients involved in those
cases and will take the lead in notifying them, in writing, that their file is
one of those being reviewed. If the external review confirms there is a
clinically significant discrepancy in the results, the patient and the
patient's family physician and specialist will be notified.
    Patients who would like confirmation they are included in the review may
call the hospital on its information line at 1-888-525-0553. Patients will
need to provide their date of birth and provincial health card number for
identification to safeguard patient confidentiality.
    Additional information regarding the review process is available on the
GBHS website at
    GBHS has complete confidence in its two current pathologists and its
laboratory staff who conducted the internal review. The two pathologists will
be augmented by a pathologist who will start on May 14. Two other pathologists
have committed to joining the staff in 2009. Until then, GBHS is seeking
support from other hospital pathology departments to manage the workload.

For further information:

For further information: Maureen Solecki, Vice President Strategic
Planning, Community Relations and Support Services, (519) 376-2121, ext. 2806

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