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What's in the news: Apr. 9 -- Newfoundland cancer testing problems persist

"They should be shot over there"
Will it never cease? The controversy continues over breast cancer hormone testing pathology errors in Newfoundland, as Eastern Health authority announced it had identified 43 more patient records that would qualify for retesting -- except that only 16 of those patients are still alive.

"It's disgraceful. They should be shot over there," said Premier Danny Williams, referring to the Eastern Health management. "They've learned absolutely nothing."

Health Minister Ross Wiseman, who has faced calls for him to resign since the testing scandal emerged, said he will not accept any more mistakes from Eastern Health. "We're bringing in some outside resources to provide the necessary education to those individuals who'll be dealing with the disclosure thing."

The Canadian Cancer Society's Peter Dawe accused health authority officials of delaying its announcement that 38 more records had been identified, and opposition leader Yvonne James suggested the government hold public forums across the province to restore public confidence in the healthcare system.

1,023 patients' records indicated they should be retested. 359 are dead.

Quebec EHR system delayed
Quebec's province-wide electronic health records system will not be completed by next year as had been promised, announced Health Minister Dr Yves Bolduc. Dr Bolduc said it would be finished in three to five years. [La Presse]

PEI rewrites healthcare rules
The PEI government introduced new legislation to speed up the way doctors are licensed to practise in the province, and to speed up and make more fair the way complaints against doctors are handled. The changes have been endorsed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Prince Edward Island as well as the Medical Society of PEI. "We know we’ve lost physicians in the past because other provinces’ processes were just a little bit more expedient," said Health Minister Doug Currie. "In this environment, a month or two-month delay could be the difference between getting a physician and not getting a physician." [Charlottetown Guardian]

The Guardian's editorial board approved of the changes, but worried that the public would remain in the dark about doctors' investigations and punishments. "What's not clear is whether the new law will call for full public disclosure of the disciplinary process. The medical profession is self-governing, a privilege granted by the provincial government, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that our doctors provide essential services to the public and therefore should be held accountable to the public. Full disclosure of disciplinary hearings fits with this philosophy, and gives the public the assurance that their interests are being protected." [Charlottetown Guardian]

"The Somali autism puzzle"
Do Somalis suffer from autism at a higher rate than do people of other ethnicities? That's what some people think, and research is beginning to examine the question.

Turnbull in the news
The Globe and Mail's Michael Valpy profiles Dr Jeffrey Turnbull, who was elected the Ontario Medical Association's nominee to become the CMA's president-elect in August.

New QMA prez
The Quebec Medical Association elected Dr Jean-François Lajoie, an internist and lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke, to be its next president. [QMA news release]

HIV's virulent adaptations
HIV has adapted to its human host and is becoming more virulent, announced American military health researchers after tracking the virus for 22 years. "Unfortunately, it may no longer be true that there is a time period of several years between diagnosis and the need for treatment," said Dr Nancy Crum-Cianflone, of the San Diego Naval Medical Center. "Instead this time-span is shortening."

Gender divide in medicine
Female GPs are perceived as more caring than male GPs when it comes to treating depression. Also, female GPs write "distinctly" longer referral letters. Researchers remain puzzled as to the reason for both phenomena.

Ontario passes law to allow observation of doctors at work

The Ontario government yesterday passed Bill 141 to permit health-profession regulatory bodies, including the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, to compel members to cooperate with investigations and to permit regulators to perform "direct observation of a member in his or her practice, including the direct observation by inspectors of procedures."

"Our government is taking yet another step to improve patient safety in the province," said Health Minister David Caplan (left) in a release. "This legislation will ensure that patients receive safe and high quality care from their health care providers, using the best medical equipment in the most secure settings."

The new legislation grants the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario a powerful new set of investigative tools, well beyond what had previously been available to the College.

The new powers are necessary, Mr Caplan said in introducing the bill in December, in light of the recent revelation that GPs in Ontario were performing cosmetic surgeries without any safety oversight. (Canadian Medicine reported on the proposed law's introduction in the legislature on December 11.)

Though Bill 141 received support from both opposition parties, neither was entirely pleased with the bill.

One MPP, Rosario Marchese, of the New Democratic Party, argued in February that while Bill 141 was undoubtedly "good regulatory practice," it didn't go far enough. "We've got to do what other provinces are doing -- recognizing the importance of extensive monitoring," he said. "In some of these provinces, like British Columbia and Alberta, all surgeons and the surgical facilities they operate in must be licensed for each procedure they perform. That's the way it should be."

During the same session, Randy Hillier, who is running for the leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party, said Bill 141 was yet another "unproductive, counterproductive" and burdensome regulation that have been "choking off prosperity." Mr Hillier lamented that legislators seemed to be "chasing our tails all the time over insignificant, incremental regulatory creep."

NDP health critic France Gélinas hailed the final version of the bill as a step towards better protecting patients in Ontario, though like Mr Marchese she too added that the province still had more to do. "Just remember that 50% of physicians graduated in the bottom half of their class; 50% of nurses graduated in the bottom half of their class," she said, as representatives from the CPSO looked on. "The colleges are there so that there are no unqualified and incompetent people practising in Ontario. Their role is so important that it should go without saying that as a member of such a college, you have a duty to your college, because that duty is to provide safe care to the people of Ontario."

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario welcomed the new law. "It is absolutely critical that the College have the tools it needs to ensure that doctors, taking care of patients in Ontario, have the skills and knowledge to do so safely and effectively," Dr Rayudu Koka, the CPSO's president, said in a release. "And, the public expects that a fundamental part of being a regulated health professional includes that kind of oversight."