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article imageDetails released of Ottawa clinic in HIV, hepatitis scare

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By Arthur Weinreb     Oct 17, 2011 in Health
Ottawa - After 48 hours of withholding critical information, Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa's chief medical officer of health, released details of the clinic that put thousands of patients at risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
Last Saturday, Dr. Levy spoke to the media advising that 6,800 people are potentially at risk of contracting HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C as a result of procedures for sterilizing medical instruments not always being followed. Levy stated that the problem was confined to one clinic and one procedure although he refused to name the clinic, the procedure or the physician involved.
Today, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) provided the details that were kept from the public during Saturday's media conference. OPH announced that a private clinic, run by Dr. Christiane Farazli, was the one involved. The clinic is located at 1081 Carling Avenue, Suite 606, in the west end of Ottawa. The procedure that gave rise to the risk was an endoscopy that examined the patient's esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, or rectum. An endoscopy is conducted by use of an endoscope which is a long tube with an attached camera that enables doctors to see inside certain organs or body cavities.
Dr. Farazli is still working at the clinic although the clinic no longer does endoscopies.
On the same day the announcement was made, letters [PDF] were mailed out by OPH to the 6,800 patients involved. Signed by both Levy and Farazli, the letter advises patients there is a possibility, albeit low, that they have become infected and gives them various options.
Patients who receive a letter can go to their family doctor or a walk-in clinic. If they take the letter and enclosed fact sheets with them, they will be referred to a medical laboratory to have a blood sample taken. If a patient does not have a family doctor or does not have an Ontario Health (OHIP) card, they should contact OPH and arrangements will be made so they can have a blood sample taken, without cost.
A third, seemingly bizarre option, is the patient can go back to Dr. Farazli for blood tests and follow-up.
Both the letter and the media release stress the fact the odds of a patient actually contracting one of the three viruses is extremely low. It is said to be almost zero (one in three billion) for contracting HIV, less than one in one million for Hepatitis B and less than one in 50 million for Hepatitis C.
Dr. Levy is not apologizing for last Saturday's announcement that provided no details. Levy is quoted in the Winnipeg Free Press as saying that the Ottawa medical community was not prepared to deal with thousands of people over the weekend.
Levy said his reason for the Saturday announcement was because he believed an unnamed media outlet was about to break the story and he believed releasing details would have done more harm that good.
What is left unanswered, at least for now, is how many people who never heard of Dr. Christiane Farazli or her clinic and never had an endoscopy, panicked over the thought they might have contracted a potentially fatal virus.
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More about dr christiane farazli, dr isra levy, ottawa publich health, HIV, hepatitis b
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