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Ottawa Clinic Shut Down Over HIV, Hepatitis Risk

Ottawa Clinic Shut Down Over HIV, Hepatitis Risk

People in the Ottawa region started getting their letters yesterday.  A private clinic in Ottawa has been shut down because they were improperly sterilizing their medical equipment between exams — exams including endoscopies and colonoscopies — leading to a miniscule yet present risk that patients could have contracted HIV or hepatitis from the equipment.  Everyone who had had an endoscopy, colonoscopy or any other exam at this clinic over the last 10 years is receiving a warning in the mail about it.

Including me.

In 2005, I was a patient at Dr Christiane Farazli’s clinic, checking in for a routine colonoscopy. (Which, by the way, you should be doing too. It’s not a fun exam, but I can guarantee you that bowel cancer is even LESS fun.)  I will admit, I was surprised that this exam was being done in a private clinic: I figured this kind of equipment was only available in a hospital. As it turns out, hospital cutbacks in the 1990s led to the opening of hundreds of these clinics across Ontario.

The one thing that wasn’t happening at these clinics? Routine inspection of their facilities.

The risk is minimal, but it’s frightening. Nobody wants to hear they’ve been exposed to a life-threatening, life-altering disease, especially at a medical clinic.  I am luckier than most: during the investigation of a separate medical issue years later, I was tested for HIV and hepatitis. My test results were all clear, and so when the news of this scare broke, I had no moment of worry, no twinge of fear that maybe I was the one in the million, the loser of the lottery. Even though the risks of exposure are minimal in this case — and I do believe they are minimal — still, knowing there was a risk at all would have unsettled me had I not already known I was in the clear.

When I first heard about the story of Dr Farazli’s clinic being shut down, I assumed it was a one-off; a rogue clinic that was cutting corners, discovered in the course of a regularly-held routine investigation. I was floored to hear that these clinics had NEVER been inspected prior to 2010 — indeed, since these clinics were opened, they had never been inspected unless a complaint had been lodged against them.

Let me repeat that: NEVER, unless someone actually complained.

This is why people who were patients of Dr Farazli’s over the span of the last ten years received letters warning them to go get tested. Because nobody knows how long they were improperly sterilizing equipment.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons had to *ask* for the ability to inspect these clinics. They had to fight to get access. And even now, they’re only mandated to inspect the clinics every five years — again, unless someone complains.

Is every 5 years enough? Or will the public health board in your city be sending you a letter sometime down the road?

Only time will tell.

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Photo Credit: Andy G on Flickr

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17 comments

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4:50PM PDT on Oct 23, 2011

This happened in the U.S. too. Seriously, you guys can't properly sterilize that tube that was in somebody's rectum? Gross...

11:36AM PDT on Oct 22, 2011

I think that the further you can stay away from places where many sick people go, that is taking good care. Don't run the risk of being in the wrong place in case someone is really sick..
I like to stay home as much as possible where I can control my green!

9:47AM PDT on Oct 22, 2011

That is just unacceptable. I study biology, and as part of that, I have lab courses where I handle blood samples; the regulations and lab protocols are very strict, and tightly monitored. Any blood sample is treated as a potential contaminant, and anything that comes in contact with that blood is properly sterilized. Including anything that'll get thrown away - nothing bloody is thrown in regular trash, but all bloodied trash is sterilized before being disposed of.

To think that a hospital would fail in the measures that a biology lab tightly enforces is scary.

9:47AM PDT on Oct 22, 2011

This is what happens when you get private interest in healthcare- cut corners to make profits and public health becomes irrelevant. Fortunately it's only stupid wealthy people who get ill.

8:14AM PDT on Oct 21, 2011

Would it not have been more prudent to eat prunes?

11:53PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

Scarey

8:13PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

You cannot rely on private business to take care of society.

Private business is not for the people by the people. Private business is for the money by the company. Private business will take your money, and give you nothing in return whenever they can get away with it. See private health care for examples.

Huge government is great because as long as it is run properly it protects the people it represents from private business that will murder them for their money if they can get away with it.

8:12PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

"A private clinic in Ottawa has been shut down because they were improperly sterilizing their medical equipment between exams — exams including endoscopies and colonoscopies — leading to a miniscule yet present risk that patients could have contracted HIV or hepatitis from the equipment."

PRIVATE HEALTH CARE IS JUST SO @#$!ING AWESOME! =D

BANKRUPTCY FROM YOUR BILL, AND A LIFE THREATENING DISEASE AT THE SAME TIME?

WOW!

IT'S A 2 FOR 2 DEAL!

WHERE CAN I SIGN UP?

7:03PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

Thanks for info.

5:45PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

Thanks.

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