On December 14, 2020, Gluckstein Lawyers commenced a class action naming Sudbury's main hospital, Health Sciences North (HSN), and their senior administrators. This class action lawsuit follows the revelation of systemic errors in breast imaging performed at the hospital over several years, including missed cancerous lesions, which have led to near-catastrophic outcomes for patients.
A 2018 internal letter obtained by the law firm documents "countless missed lesions" and "overt misreads." The surgeons at the hospital warned of an "overwhelming decline below the standard of care for contemporary breast imaging," which was significantly impacting their ability to manage patients to an appropriate standard.
The leadership of HSN, including Dr. John Fenton, HSN's chief of staff and Dr. Evan Roberts, the former chief of radiology, were repeatedly told of the poor quality of breast imaging and the potential for patient harm. They did little to fix the problems. They imposed major roadblocks to quality improvement. Healthcare professionals at HSN seeking to raise concerns in radiology and elsewhere at the hospital were subject to bullying and other punitive action. The hospital did not attempt to notify patients or the community of the quality problems.
The lawsuit has been filed on behalf of patients and their family members by Shannon Hayes, a former HSN patient, who alleges that her breast cancer was missed. It would take another year before her breast cancer was diagnosed following imaging performed at another hospital. By then, cancer had spread. She is currently battling metastatic cancer.
"There needs to be a fundamental change in the culture of safety and quality at HSN," said Ms. Hayes. "I was outraged to learn that HSN administration knew about problems for months before my imagining was misread but did nothing and kept the problems at the hospital under wraps."
The lawsuit seeks compensation for affected patients and a court order requiring the hospital to have all affected breast imaging reviewed by a specialist for errors. The class includes all patients who had breast radiology performed or interpreted at HSN from 2008 until 2020.
"I fear that Shannon's story is just the tip of the iceberg," said Jordan Assaraf, Shannon's lawyer. "It is apparent that there have been serious systemic quality problems at HSN which the management have failed to address. Shockingly, a hospital funded by taxpayers would punish whistleblowers rather than taking prompt action to avoid harm to patients. This tragic loss will cause these patients to lose trust in their healthcare institution, which is there to care and protect them at these vulnerable times."
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