It makes sense that the Lakeshore General Hospital wanted to set the record straight last week when they announced they were recalling 684 colonoscopies done at the hospital in the last three years. After all, it is their responsibility to inform the population, and getting in front of the story is a great way to keep a lid on criticism for not acting sooner, but in this case, public trust has been betrayed in a most egregious way – and somebody ought to have to answer for that. The incomplete colonoscopies were discovered in April during a quality-control review, when it was found that the doctor who performed the procedures did not properly document certain parts of the colonoscopy, including taking pictures of 'landmarks' at the end of the colon, which is normally a part of the procedure.
In addition, the doctor who performed the colonoscopies was not a gastroenterologist, but rather, a general surgeon. The president of the hospital's council of physicians said the reason for the delay in announcing the recall was so the hospital could perform an in-depth review of every case in the last few years in order to determine whose procedures were incorrectly done.
The news prompted speculation about how many of the affected patients – who were all contacted by registered mail to inform them of the recall – were given false negatives for cancer, and further, how many actually will have cancer. A gastroenterology expert at the hospital said the medical literature suggests a two-to-six-per-cent false-negative rate, meaning 13 to 41 of the 684 affected patients could have cancer, even though it sometimes takes five to 10 years for colorectal lesions to grow to the point where they can be of significant impact on a client's health, but some cases can see symptoms earlier than that.
No matter which way you slice it, West Islanders have to be more than a little concerned about the way the tests were handled. Full credit to the hospital for not burying the information, but it's another black eye on the hospital, which has endured some serious issues in recent years.
In fact, this is just another piece of news that will keep West Islanders from showing up when they are ill, seriously or otherwise. The hospital's emergency ward is perpetually overcrowded, thereby making any trip to the ER a long and uncomfortable one, and despite the opening of the hospital's ambulatory-care clinic in 2003, waits are still long unless your condition is life-threatening. The future of a hospital in the Soulanges area is still up in the air, so for now, the Lakeshore Generel Hospital is going to have to remain the hospital of choice for 300,000 West Island and off-island residents who don't want to travel to Valleyfield for medical care, and who represent one of the fastest-aging populations in Canada. It doesn't appear that the cavalry is coming for the LGH anytime soon.