On July 18th, Alberta Health Services issued a report resulting from a joint investigation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta and Alberta Health Services “into inadequate reprocessing and sterilization of medical devices” in the North Town Medical Centre in Edmonton. This

“may have put specific clinic patients at risk of infections such as Hepatitis B and C.”

In related news article, Dr. Trevor Theman, Registrar of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) noted that the clinic had been operating for more than two years before receiving its inspection. Immediately after their inspection, the College issued an order to stop reprocessing the instruments and notified AHS, which decided to conduct a full risk assessment.

The order was in November 2015 and it took until July 18th 2016 for the assessment to be completed and publicly reported. The July 18th release by AHS on this stated “Those potentially at-risk will be informed by letter, mailed by AHS on July 14, 2016.”

It is absolutely unacceptable to have such glaring gaps in the management of Alberta’s health system. How can a clinic operate for more than two years before receiving its inspection? Who decides that is acceptable? It certainly wouldn’t be Alberta patients and families! Who decided, once knowing that the procedures were inadequate and potentially put patients at risk of being exposed to blood borne disease, that patients and their families didn’t need to be informed until July 2016 and then only by letter?

Given that the clinic opened more than 2 years before the inspection, it is possible that some patients were potentially exposed nearly 3 years earlier. While there was no comment from the health officials involved, there remains the question about the potential risks to family members and friends being exposed beyond the 270 people AHS has reported.

For us, who have been working toward positive change in Alberta’s health treatment system since Greg died prematurely (see his journey on HealthArrows.ca), this came on the heels of the politically delayed release of Health Quality Council of Alberta’s report Improving Continuity of Care: Key Opportunities and a Status Report on Recommendations From the 2013 Continuity of Patient Care Study”. This report stated that only 3 of 17 recommendations made in December of 2013 have been acted on to the point of completion.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that Albertans, including healthy Albertans, are going to have to become more informed and much more engaged in demanding the necessary changes are made in the management of Alberta’s so-called health system. All of the great people working inside the system have not and cannot effectively make the changes necessary at the higher decision making level.

As taxpayers we are paying more than $20 billion annually for what is assumed (and by senior management promoted as) a leading health care system and it is not. There are tremendous people in the system that work very hard to deliver great care. If it was not for them, things would be a lot worse. As the public, we need to support the great people inside and on the front lines and where ever great care is provided but at the same time, we have to demand better coordinated management and teamwork from this government and those they have put in positions of authority. Their lack of transparency has kept Albertans from knowing where the gaps are and what the risks are to our health and well-being.

We should expect to see a clear public statement by Health Minister and Deputy Premier Hoffman outlining the immediate establishment of a management structure and steps put into place to ensure that as of this date, no new clinic or point of delivery of health services opens to treat any patients until it is inspected by an independent and publicly accountable body. This is to ensure that all staff are properly trained for the work they are going to undertake with patients and that all equipment and procedures are properly in place for the task. Furthermore, we want to see a concrete time frame set out to inspect all other clinics or locations where patient treatment is currently being done, starting with all of the others that have not yet been inspected since they opened. There must be public reports of all inspections of all facilities where patients are treated. As each inspection is completed, a public certificate of compliance as of the date of inspection must then be placed on the facility’s wall in a prominent location for potential patients and their families to see when visiting that facility. As patients, we have the right to know that the facility has been inspected and approved, and when.

The public must hear Health Minister and Deputy Premier Hoffman make the clear public commitment that this all will be completed in very short order, within a stated deadline, in order to minimize on going risks to patients and families who are relying on facilities which may not be operating at the standards required.

In closing, it is absolutely unacceptable for the different silos in the disconnected health treatment system to continue to put their own interests ahead of the care of patients and their families. It also is time for the Minister and this government to put their over-riding political considerations aside and become fully transparent and committed to the long overdue substantial changes to the management structure and approach of Alberta’s health treatment system.

Lack of basic health system oversight & coordination puts Alberta patients and families at risk