Canadian Healthcare

Sudbury woman explains her lawsuit against Health Sciences North hospital

A class-action lawsuit filed against Health Sciences North (HSN) brutally rips down the perceived standard of care at the hospital’s breast screening program and accuses the hospital of having a complete lack of transparency on issues that could have caused potential harm for women in Sudbury and across Northeastern Ontario.

The 33-page statement of claim was filed by Gluckstein Lawyers, a Toronto-based law firm, on behalf of Shannon Hayes, a former Sudbury woman.

The suit names the hospital and several doctors and radiologists as defendants. Hayes is claiming that a proper diagnosis of her breast cancer was missed during her screening at HSN in 2018.

A year would go by before her breast cancer was diagnosed during a checkup performed at another hospital, in London, England. By then, the cancer had spread. Hayes is currently coping with metastatic cancer. She now lives in London.

The $22-million claim alleges “systemic negligence of the radiology service” at HSN for such things as interpretation of breast imaging, mammography, breast ultrasound and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) breast imaging. The claim covers the period from Jan. 1, 2008 to Dec. 31, 2020.

In the claim statement, several situations were described. During the time outlined in the lawsuit, HSN operated a breast screening and assessment service (BSAS) at the hospital, part of the Ontario Breast Screening Program, said the court document.

Also, during the time period, the claim alleged “there was an overwhelming, objective decline in the standards of practice in the performance and interpretation of Breast Imaging (sic).” The claim alleged that this significantly impacted the BSAS team’s ability to manage patients to an appropriate standard of care.

Also in the statement of claim, the lawyers alleged that radiology chief Dr. Evan Roberts knew of the substandard breast imaging but took no corrective action. It also stated that medical chief of staff Dr. John Fenton was specifically told about the substandard breast imaging but failed to take any timely action.

In an interview with on Thursday, Hayes revealed she is an international relief worker. She said she visits her sister in Sudbury when she is between work contracts. She recalled her interaction at the Sudbury hospital almost three years ago.

“In July 2018, I felt a lump,” said Hayes.

Through the family doctor, Hayes was sent for a mammogram and an ultrasound at HSN.

“And I received the result that it was benign; there was no cancer. And the recommendation to get a follow-up scan in one year,” Hayes recalled. “And so I did that, and one year later I was in the UK.”

Something stood out from that appointment, Hayes recalled. It was the UK radiologist being so surprised that no biopsy had been done during her screening visit in Sudbury the year before.

“He kept saying, ‘I can’t believe they didn’t do a biopsy. Why didn’t they do a biopsy?’ ”

Hayes said her initial thought was why would a biopsy be needed. After all, they did a scan in Sudbury and said it was nothing.

“But he kept saying it over and over again, and then it dawned on me what he was telling me,” Hayes recalled. “He was telling me I had cancer.

“He was so upset. I was completely blown away, totally in shock.”

But more than that, Hayes said she was frightened.

“I guess I was just absolutely terrified, to be honest. I knew that it (cancer) had been there a year before and that meant it had been growing for a year. I was just absolutely terrified,” said Hayes.

She admitted that the ordeal left her angry.

“Yeah, I’m angry. I have worked around the world in countries that have very poor health care systems due to lack of resources, or equipment or training or standards. In Canada, we don’t have any of those issues. When we walk into a medical facility, we expect that we will receive care that meets Canadian health-care quality standards.”

Hayes said she was also upset to learn that several surgeons at HSN were aware there were issues in the diagnostic imaging process at the hospital. In February 2018, she said the surgeons sent a letter to the “HSN leadership” to advise there were specific problems with breast imaging “leading to significant impairments” in the ability for the surgeons to provide effective surgical care.

“I found out a couple of months after my diagnosis that this has been an issue that HSN has been aware of for years. They were aware of it before my misdiagnosis. And to my knowledge, the issue still exists,” she said.



It was happening in February 2018, said Hayes. It was happening in July 2018, said Hayes. How many other women across the North have been misdiagnosed, she asked.

“There is absolutely no reasonable excuse for what has been happening at HSN for years,” said Hayes.

Toronto lawyer Jordan Assaraf is one of the barristers representing Hayes and gathering new clients for the lawsuit.

“No one in Sudbury is aware of the systemic problem that has occurred with the senior leadership at the hospital. They’re not being transparent about it,” Assaraf alleged.

He referred to the February 2018 letter and said it should have been brought to the attention of specific patients.

“That is a major issue. For example, somebody actually just called us. She went to Health Sciences in 2020 to have a radiology report read. It’s two years now past the date of that letter. She should be notified about an ongoing issue.

“They’re covering this up, unfortunately,“ said Assaraf.

“We would like to know what they’re holding back; why they haven’t told the public all this. What’s the reason for not being transparent about an issue like this? This is a serious problem and they should be explaining about what happened. What have they done to fix that issue instead of covering up?”

None of the statements or claims made in the legal documents have been proved or scrutinized in a court of law.

Health Sciences North was contacted for comment on the lawsuit Thursday.

“In response to a recent media article, Health Sciences North (HSN) would like to reiterate its dedication to providing high quality patient care for families of Northeastern Ontario,” said a statement released Thursday.

“While HSN is unable to comment on this matter as it is before the courts, we want to underscore our commitment to quality and timeliness of care. HSN strives to uphold stringent standards and best practices to ensure patients receive the best quality care,” the statement continued.

The HSN statement also addressed concerns the public might have with respect to staff members.

“In 2018, HSN had eight radiologists. As was reported publicly in 2019, a new Chief of Medical Imaging joined HSN and a new collaboration put in place with three Toronto academic centres to ensure HSN patients and medical staff benefit from a large pool of world-class expertise with 98 fellowship-trained sub-specialist radiologists who now hold privileges at HSN — fellowship trained refers to additional credentials for a sub-specialty in imaging,” said HSN.

“Furthermore HSN has a continued focus on strengthening its quality assurance programs and providing the best care for its patients,” the HSN statement concluded.

Source link

Most Popular

To Top