A surgeon at Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital misread a pathology report and removed a woman's breast although she did not have cancer. The hospital was not told about the error by Dr. Barbara Heartwell. Now, the hospital is scrambling to appease the patient.
WINDSOR, Ontario - A woman patient who did not have breast cancer received a mastectomy by mistake because of an error by a surgeon, the Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital admitted in a statement.
The hospital said that the surgeon, Dr. Barbara Heartwell, knew of the mistake after she had removed the woman’s breast but did not report the matter to hospital authorities. Authorities are now going through records of all mastectomies she performed.
“Today, Hotel-Dieu Grace Hospital released information regarding an unfortunate and serious, – adverse medical event that recently came to its attention,” said the hospital in an official statement.
“On Friday, February 5, 2010, Hotel-Dieu Grace received an inquiry from a media outlet regarding a patient mastectomy performed by Dr. Barbara Heartwell in the Fall 2009,” said the hospital as an investigation was ordered into what transpired and how the error occurred.
“Since February 5th, the Hospital has learned that a patient of Dr. Heartwell’s received a mastectomy which was scheduled on the basis of an original diagnosis of breast cancer,” the Windsor-based institution said.
“The diagnosis, however, was contradicted by a pre-surgery pathology report indicating that the lump was benign. Dr. Heartwell misread the report and unfortunately proceeded with the surgery,” the hospital admitted.
“We are deeply saddened to hear of this serious error and will assist the patient in any way that we can. We are profoundly sorry that this has occurred. While errors are extremely rare, as a hospital we take every possible precaution to ensure the highest level of care, and will be conducting a full investigation,” said hospital board chair Egidio Sovran.
“Dr. Heartwell is a well known and highly respected surgeon, who has successfully treated thousands of breast cancer patients in the Windsor area. She has a successful surgical practice and a strong following among patients in Windsor,” Sovran said.
“Humans are not infallible and mistakes do unfortunately occur,” said CEO Warren Chant. “We appreciate how difficult this is for the patient and her family. We will thoroughly investigate this matter and will continue to reach out to assist this patient.”
The patient was advised of the error by Dr. Heartwell at a follow-up appointment.
“Following the media inquiry on February 5th, Hospital administration contacted Dr. Heartwell to inquire into this incident and immediately reached out to the patient through the Hospital’s Patient Advocate,” said astatement issued on Wednesday.
“The Hospital is taking all steps necessary to assist the patient, including offering counselling services and any other assistance that is required to help this patient.
“The Hospital has convened a full investigation. Practice and procedural recommendations may follow. Dr. Heartwell is presently on vacation. When she returns to the Hospital, the doctor will be monitored and her pathology reports will be reviewed by another physician pending the completion of the investigation.
“In addition, as a precautionary measure, a chart review has been undertaken of Dr. Heartwell’s past patient mastectomy records to ensure that there are no other patient care issue.”