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Class action lawsuit against HSN claims ‘systemic errors’ in breast cancer imaging

Patients who received breast radiology at the Sudbury hospital between 2008 and 2020 could be affected
290121_LG_HSN weekly update PHOTO

A class action lawsuit launched in mid-December 2020 claims systemic errors in breast imaging at Health Sciences North led to missed cancerous lesions and “near catastrophic outcomes for patients.”

The class action, which names HSN and senior administrators, includes all patients who had breast radiology performed at HSN between 2008 and 2020.

“A 2018 internal letter obtained by the law firm documents ‘countless missed lesions’ and ‘overt misreads.’ The surgeons at the hospital warned of an ‘overwhelming decline below the standard of care for contemporary breast imaging, which was significantly impacting their ability to manage patients to an appropriate standard,’” a press release from Gluckstein Personal Injuries Lawyers, the firm handling the suit, states.

Gluckstein alleges HSN leadership, including Dr. John Fenton, HSN's chief of staff, and Dr. Evan Roberts, the former chief of radiology, were “told repeatedly of the poor quality of breast imaging and the potential for patient harm.”

The firm further claims hospital leadership did little to fix the alleged problems, going so far as to block efforts to improve the quality of breast radiology images. 

“Health-care professionals at HSN seeking to raise concerns in radiology and elsewhere at the hospital were subject to bullying and other punitive action,” Gluckstein claims. “The hospital did not attempt to notify patients or the community of the quality problems.”

The only patient named in the suit at the moment is Shannon Hayes, a Sudbury woman who is alleging her breast cancer was missed for a year before being diagnosed after follow-up imaging at another hospital.

"There needs to be a fundamental change in the culture of safety and quality at HSN," Hayes is quoted saying in the press release. "I was outraged to learn that HSN administration knew about problems for months before my imaging was misread but did nothing and kept the problems at the hospital under wraps."

The lawsuit is seeking compensation for affected patients from 2008 to 2020, and a court order requiring the hospital to have all affected breast imaging reviewed by a specialist for errors. 

"I fear that Shannon's story is just the tip of the iceberg," said Hayes’ lawyer Jordan Assaraf in the release. "It is apparent that there have been serious systemic quality problems at HSN which the management have failed to address. Shockingly, a hospital funded by taxpayers would punish whistleblowers rather than taking prompt action to avoid harm to patients. This tragic loss will cause these patients to lose trust in their healthcare institution, which is there to care and protect them at these vulnerable times."

The firm further states that it is asking those who believe they may have been impacted by the alleged issues with HSN’s breast radiology to visit their website, is not allowing comments on this story.