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Long-Running Quebec Probe Adds 4,500 Scans

August 30, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Back in November, Yves Robert, MD, secretary general of the Quebec College of Physicians, announced a review of the X-ray readings of one radiologist, but said the province’s residents generally received excellent radiology services.

According to the Montreal Gazette, Dr. Robert said at the time:

The quality is very high and is comparable to every other jurisdiction in Canada. But from time to time, one individual might be an exception. So it looks like that is the case right now.

Nine months later, it no longer looks like that is the case.

Last week, the College of Physicians announced that it was adding 4,500 more X-rays from three Quebec radiology clinics to the ongoing review. That brings the total number of questioned scans to 22,500, most of them mammograms. (You can read the news release here, though only if you read French. This is, after all, Francophone Quebec—though I should point out that during a couple of visits to the province, my fumbling French and meek requests to converse “en Anglais” were met with nothing but courtesy.)

What’s going on?

In 2009, a study that uncovered discrepancies in test results from Quebec laboratories led the provincial health minister to investigate. Eventually, he ordered nearly 3,000 mammogram results sent to Seattle for review.

Last November’s investigation focused on now-retired radiologist Raymond Bergeron, MD. After reviewing 15,000 mammograms, the College of Physicians called several hundred women back for retests. Dr. Bergeron defended himself, saying that he believed he had misread only three mammograms.

Also in November, one woman sued Dr. Bergeron. After he’d said her mammogram was normal, she claimed, a second evaluation found Stage 2 cancer. A second woman sued another Quebec radiologist, saying he had misread mammograms and failed to notice cancer in both of her breasts.

The women’s lawyer said “there are serious gaps in the quality control of breast cancer screening” in Quebec. After his clients complained to the College of Physicians, he said, the college suspended the radiologists from reading mammograms but allowed them to continue reading other images and took no other action.

In announcing the latest review of 4,500 scans, the president of the College of Physicians, Charles Bernard, MD, said:

I deplore the fact that the College of Physicians has to hold such an investigation. I sincerely want to assure women that we are working so they can receive the best possible service and health care.

It’s unfair for me to attempt a long-distance diagnosis with just a handful of facts. But while it’s investigating, the college might want to investigate itself, just to make sure that the ways it’s “working” to assure women of the best health care are, in fact, working.

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One Response to “Long-Running Quebec Probe Adds 4,500 Scans”

  1. Radiology Daily»AlertArchive » Quebec Mammogram Tally: 109 Cancers Missed on March 29th, 2012 at 10:04 am

    […] As we’ve reported, the college began its review in November 2010 after a random quality-control review turned up problems. The error rate for Raymond Bergeron, MD, the radiologist who missed the 96 cancers, was five times above the province’s accepted maximum level. The error rates for his colleagues were within provincial norms. […]