Suspended radiologist erred 708 times

ST. JOHN’S — The work of a suspended Newfoundland radiologist was so poor that he missed glaring problems such as tumours, broken bones and cases of pneumonia, the chief of the province’s largest health board said yesterday after an in-depth review of nearly 3,800 patient records.

As a result, some patients of Fred Kasirye may have missed potentially life-saving treatment, said Louise Jones, interim chief executive officer of the Eastern Health Authority.

“There have been pneumonias that have been missed, there’s been fractures that have been missed, there’s been some tumours that have been missed,” Ms. Jones said during a news conference. “We did not go back to quantify that. We had over 5,000 reports that were going out and we left that in the hands of the physicians and the patients themselves.”

Dr. Kasirye was hired at the Burin Peninsula Health Centre in southern Newfoundland last November. But in May, he was suspended without pay after colleagues at the hospital raised concerns over his procedures and decision-making.

The provincial government then ordered Eastern Health to review the 6,412 X-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds and fluoroscopies under Dr. Kasirye’s purview. The review, conducted by more than 20 radiologists, found that Dr. Kasirye misread 708 exams. It also concluded that 21 patients whose exams were misread have died, but not as a result of the errors.

“We recognize that the review took some time to complete, however, this was a very complex process and it was necessary for us to take the time to ensure that we had accurate information to report to our patients, physicians and their families,” Ms. Jones said.

“We provide great health care … the full review that we did was to ensure that people had the best health care that they possibly could.”

Dr. Kasirye is believed to be outside the country and could not be reached for comment. He is appealing his suspension. His lawyer, Liam O’Brien, did not return messages.

In recent months, Eastern Health, which oversees 290,000 patients, has been reeling from questions surrounding the quality of its health care and its willingness to release information to the public. Days before it announced Dr. Kasirye’s suspension, sworn affidavits filed with the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court showed that flawed breast cancer test results were given to more than 300 patients.

George Tilley, then the health board’s CEO, apologized for the “confusion” that came about after the results of a review that discovered the botched breast cancer tests were not fully disclosed. He later resigned.

Eastern Health is now the subject of a judicial inquiry and class-action lawsuit over the breast cancer tests.

Scientific literature suggests that between 2 per cent and 20 per cent of radiology tests can be inaccurate. The review into Dr. Kasirye’s work found his error rate to be 11 per cent.

“There is no consensus in the literature,” said Benvon Cramer, chairwoman of the discipline of radiology at Memorial University.

Beginning in January, Eastern Health will implement random peer audits in an effort to cut down on the number of misread radiology tests.

“Our radiologists believe that a program such as this will reduce the range of acceptable variance for radiology reports,” Ms. Jones said. “In this particular instance, this is a very good thing. We are really ahead of the pack.”

Canada currently has no quality assurance programs for radiology tests.

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