A medical ethic expert in Ontario says health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t do enough after a woman died following her release from the Gander hospital.
“There has to be action that protects the public from this occurring again and a statement that this has been wrong, and I guess you can argue that they made that statement, but it has to followed with some action,” said Kerry Bowman, professor of bioethics at the University of Toronto.
Bowman said taking action is the only way to restore the public’s trust in the medical system.
Musgrave Harbour resident June Abbott, 69, went to the emergency room at James Paton Memorial Hospital in May 2010 with a complaint of pain in her shoulders and was sent home by a physician who did not order tests. Abbott died of a heart attack hours later.
Abbott’s family complained about the physician who saw her, Dr. Esmail Abej, to the body that regulates medical practice in the province.
The family contends that Abej should have done more to treat Abbott when she sought help.
Issues and concerns
In March, a committee of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador mailed a report of the findings of its review to Abbott’s family and Abej.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe Dr. Abej should have been more suspicious of a potential cardiac cause for Mrs. Abbott’s symptoms,” the report said.
“Dr. Abej should have given greater consideration to the triage note indicating upper left arm pain earlier that day, in light of Mrs. Abbott’s risk factors noted above,” the College’s committee determined.
However, the College committee ruled that one wrong judgment did not constitute incompetence.
The “issues and concerns” cited in the review “did not rise to reasonable grounds to believe that Dr. Abej engaged in conduct deserving of sanction,” the committee said.
The Central Regional Health Authority, where Abej worked, had all of the emergency room staff at Gander’s hospital take a refresher course in procedures. Bowman said medical authorities should have done more than give staff a refresher course in triage.
Bowman also said the College of Physicians and Surgeons fell short of the mark by criticizing the doctor, but taking no significant action.
Contacted by CBC News, Abej declined to comment. He is currently working at a hospital in Winnipeg on a specialty in internal medicine