Class action filed against Health Sciences North
February 17, 2021
SUDBURY – A class-action lawsuit filed against Health Sciences North (HSN) concerns the standard of care at the hospital’s breast screening program and accuses the hospital of having a 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 (pictured), a former Sudbury woman, Sudbury.com reported.
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.” The claim alleged that this significantly impacted the BSAS team’s ability to manage patients to an appropriate standard of care.
In an interview with Sudbury.com on, Hayes said 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.
None of the statements or claims made in the legal documents have been proved or scrutinized in a court of law.
“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 by the hospital.
“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.