Thursday, January 24, 2008

French X-Ray Patients Recalled...
Trouble in Oui Oui Land

A scary little piece from Reuters:

LILLE, France (Reuters) - The French health service is recalling thousands of patients who might have been wrongly diagnosed or infected at five substandard radiology clinics, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Health experts said it was the largest such recall in France, adding the case had revealed severe failings in the health system.

Authorities closed the five clinics in the north of France last December after discovering a string of serious problems. "Inspections showed major malfunctions, notably with regard to record-keeping and personnel qualification, and with respect to the rules of hygiene and equipment safety procedures," the ministry said in a statement.

Authorities will ask most of the 7,000 patients in question to be re-examined, ministry spokeswoman Geraldine Dalban-Moreynas said.
"The vast majority are patients who may have falsely received a clean bill of health after undergoing a mammogram or chest X-ray," she said.
But an undisclosed number of patients also ran the risk of infection following examinations with instruments that were not sterilised. French media said some of the patients might have contracted AIDS or hepatitis as a result of the sloppy care.

Wednesday's case followed a series of scandals last year over malfunctioning radiation machines used to treat brain cancer patients in a number of French hospitals.

France regularly tops international rankings for the effectiveness of its health care system, although some analysts say it is unsustainable given the country's ageing population, and will need more private investment to survive.

(Reporting by Pierre Savary and Brian Rohan; editing by Crispian Balmer)

Oops... This is what can happen with socialized medicine, my friends, and it isn't pretty. Is this a typical situation? Let us hope not, for the sake of the French patients. You really have to love the part about "more private investment" being required. That means the French will have to start charging for health care after all. The best things in life may be free, but they might well cut your life short.


I have received a number of comments from French readers, who are not pleased with my characterization of their system. I have to agree that my post above is a little acerbic, but if you read it carefully, I did state that I hoped this was not a typical situation. I will take the word of my readers who live in France that it is not typical at all. Still, how could a situation like this occur under the umbrella of the French system? "B" says that the radiology practices in question were closed immediately, and were "private practices". Well, with the number of reexaminations and so forth, I don't think they were closed "immediately" but rather after the problem festered for quite a while. But I guess it is a good thing that the problem was eventually dealt with at all. I would love to know if a private clinic over there has the same degree of autonomy as such a facility here.

For the record, I do not think the American system is perfect. Far from it. However, there are those here that see socialized medicine as a panacea, and that is not accurate either. Here is yet another tale of a glitch in another socialized system:

Glitch held up X-ray results

Patients' health may have been compromised

Michelle Lang, Calgary Herald,Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008

Patient care may have been compromised after a computer glitch at Calgary hospitals delayed the transmission of as many as 40,000 radiology reports such as mammograms to local doctors' offices last year, health officials said.

The Calgary Health Region revealed Wednesday that problems with software responsible for faxing radiology results began in May 2007 and continued until late July, when the region notified nearly 2,000 physicians about the delayed reports.

The health authority, which is still investigating the incident, said it's possible patients were adversely impacted, although they didn't know of any cases. Physicians said the worst-case scenario would be a delayed diagnosis of a disease such as cancer, where timely treatment might stop the illness from spreading.

"It's one of those technical glitches that occurs in a system and it's really unfortunate because it has the potential to impact patient care," CHR spokesman Mark Kastner said in an interview Wednesday.

Kastner said any patients whose reports may have been delayed would have since received the correct information from their physician, noting doctors' offices have now had the reports for several months.

Opposition parties called the situation a "mess," adding the CHR should have announced the problem last summer.

"There may have been a lot of people delayed in getting treatment for cancer and other life-threatening issues," said Laurie Blakeman, the Alberta Liberals' health critic. "People were probably failed."

The CHR's fax problems come more than two years after another computer glitch at the health body where physicians viewed incorrect lab test results for 2,000 Calgarians during a two-month period. No patients were harmed during that mix-up.

In this latest instance, the fax problem related to radiology reports from imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans, which are performed to help doctors diagnose a wide range of conditions. CHR officials say a configuration problem with the software responsible for faxing radiology results from its hospitals and clinics to doctors offices likely began last May.

Doctors offices that receive radiology reports by mail or courier were not affected.

In June, the CHR noticed it was receiving an unusual number of calls from physicians saying they didn't receive faxed results from radiology exams.

It wasn't until July 20 that the CHR identified the problem and sent a letter explaining the issue to the 1,750 Calgary doctors who had opted for faxed radiology reports. CHR then re-faxed the reports to physicians.
The region's diagnostic imaging department, however, later became concerned that they may not have sent all the radiology reports to all physicians' offices.

Finally, in September, the CHR faxed out 40,000 radiology reports to Calgary physicians as a precaution, sending results from all radiology exams done during that period, although it isn't clear how many of those didn't make it to doctors' offices.

The health authority said it has fixed the computer problem and is still reviewing its response to the situation.

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Do you think these delays have affected you? If so, contact us.

Is this the fault of Canada's socialized system? The politicians want to make it sound that way. Nice to know political spin is a universal phenomenon. I do know that if a report doesn't make it out to one of our clinicians around here, there is Hell to pay within 24 hours. Take it for what it's worth, folks.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I can make the connection between five poorly run clinics and socialized medicine being at fault here. Are there no poorly run clinics in your country?

If, in fact, "France regularly tops international rankings for the effectiveness of its health care system" then maybe socialized medicine is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Being French, i will say that this is far from typical. As mentioned in hte previous comment, there are poorly run facilities all over the world, including the most advanced.

What is the link between this and socialized medicine? These were 5 radiology practices and they have been closed immediately. Not public hospitals, private practices, as far as I know.

Much respect for your *other* work, mr dalai. Spend some time in France and use the healthcare system before you form such a broad judgement.

I drove a friend in a USA ER room, she had severe blood clotting disorders, was on blood thinners, and had a nasty bruise on her leg that popped out of nowhere. 1h30 later, not one doctor had taken the time to look. One bored nurse did and went away after about 1 minute. Good medicine? Nope. Do you see me drawing conclusions about healthcare in the US? Nope. Just a terrible ER service, or maybe even it was just that shift's nurses and docs.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with this comment. Americans like to take any problem with medical services in any country that has some aspect of socialized medicine, and present it as "proof" that socialized medicine is doomed to failure, even if the problem at hand has nothing whatsoever to do with how people get paid for their services. And yet, do they ever attribute any of the problems within their own systems to failure of the for-profit model? Strangely, no. They've been brainwashed into believing that for-profit medicine is the One True Way. Because market forces are so all-powerful, they can heal the sick and comfort those who suffer. Well, the rich sick and suffering people anyway, and clearly they're the only ones who really matter.