Under-performing rad went from one locum to another
November 15, 2017
VICTORIA – A radiologist with questionable skills was able to go from one locum to another in British Columbia for several years, as there was a lack of communication across the system, a new report says.
The radiologist, Dr. Claude Vezina, had been working in Terrace for just a few weeks when his colleagues began asking serious questions in November 2016, the Vancouver Sun reported. But before that, he’d held a series of temporary placements along the South Coast beginning in 2011.
The study from Dr. Martin Wale (pictured) of the B.C. Medical Quality Initiative says there was a lack of communication about the doctor’s work during those placements.
“This situation could have been detected sooner if key information had been available for reference checking, or had been shared,” wrote Wale in his report for the B.C. Medical Quality Initiative.
“Concerns about privacy and working relationships limit the ability to seek information, even when this impacts patient safety.”
To date, medical scans from 9,757 patients have been reviewed by regional health authorities, which found potential issues with the radiologist’s interpretations in up to 15 percent of images, including MRIs, CTs, ultrasounds, mammograms and X-rays.
The radiologist held several locum positions across B.C.
The radiologist came to B.C. with references from Ontario, but it was never clear why he’d come to the West Coast, according to Wale’s report. He held locum licences – in other words, authorization to hold temporary positions – for jurisdictions across the country.
“The picture emerges of an individual, with glowing references from out-of-province, moving through a series of short locums in different jurisdictions, never getting a permanent position,” Wale wrote.
There were no apparent problems with a placement in Campbell River, for example, but “concerns were raised about his competence very soon after he started a locum in Nanaimo,” the report said.
That meant he wasn’t offered a permanent job in Nanaimo but word of what had happened apparently didn’t leave the hospital – “concerns were acted upon but not communicated,” Wale wrote.
He was also turned down for a permanent appointment after serving a locum in Powell River and was rejected when he applied for a locum in Victoria, but the reasons for those decisions are unknown, according to the report.
The radiologist arrived at Terrace’s Mills Memorial Hospital on Oct. 3, 2016, to take a staff position, but, by the next month, a non-radiologist was already raising questions about his skills.
The Northern Health Authority conducted an initial review in January of this year, finding issues with 10 of 22 scans read in a single day.
Since then, the specialist’s interpretations of more than 13,000 medical images have been reviewed by four health authorities. All of the patients affected, as well as their doctors, have been contacted.
The authorities found clinical discrepancies in 15 percent of scans reviewed in the Island Health region, 10 percent in Northern Health and six percent in Interior Health. No clinical discrepancies were found in the Vancouver Coastal region.
The same radiologist has also worked in temporary placements at a hospital in the Northwest Territories, where a review of more than 2,500 exams was launched this spring.
Wale’s report gives 20 recommendations for preventing a similar situation in the future, including a better process for checking references for locums and a provincial oversight system for managing these temporary placements.
B.C.’s ministry of health is now working on a plan for implementing the report’s recommendations, according to a news release.
The radiologist’s status with Northern Health is currently under review, according to spokesperson Eryn Collins, and he has been on voluntary leave since January. His registration with the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons is temporarily inactive.
The review of the doctor’s work follows a scandal in 2011 when under-qualified radiologists were found to be practising in four B.C. health authorities.
Dr. Doug Cochrane, the chair of the B.C. Patient Safety and Quality Council, conducted a review of that situation, and recommended creating a single province-wide system for credentialing radiologists and developing a peer review system.
Wale’s latest report found 22 of 35 recommendations in the Cochrane report have been been mostly or completely implemented, but the process of developing a peer review system “has been slow, partial and problematic.”