Health Minister Eric Hoskins is introducing sweeping measures to make Ontario’s health system more transparent

Hamilton Spectator

By Theresa Boyle

He told the Star on Saturday that he has put the province's 36 public health units and 23 colleges that regulate health professionals on notice that he wants investigation and inspection reports made public.

The move follows a series of stories in the Star about patients developing life-threatening infections during outbreaks at four Toronto pain and colonoscopy clinics. Toronto Public Health (TPH) investigated the outbreaks and the College of Physicians and Surgeons inspected the clinics, but their reports have been kept secret.

“It is clear that our system must become more transparent,” Hoskins said, adding the new measures will allow Ontarians to find out if clinics have had problems with infection control and whether patients have suffered illnesses or died.

“I see my top priority as minister as protecting the safety and well-being of Ontarians. An important part of that is them having access to information which is going to allow them to make the right decisions for their health and well-being,” he said.

The minister said he has asked Toronto Public Health to immediately make its investigation reports on the outbreaks at four pain and colonoscopy clinics available to the public by posting them on its website. At least 20 patients developed serious infections, including meningitis and hepatitis C, in these outbreaks.

(The Star had asked TPH directly for some of these investigation reports but was told that a freedom-of-information request must be filed.)

Hoskins said he is amending the Ontario Public Health Standards to require mandatory public reporting of inspection and investigation reports.

He also plans to improve oversight of clinics with a view to improving patient safety. He has asked for advice on this from Health Quality Ontario, an independent government agency that assesses and reports on quality in different parts of the health system.

Pain, endoscopy and other community clinics are making up a bigger part of the province's health system as hospitals continue to shrink.

On Saturday, Hoskins sent letters to the 23 health self-regulatory colleges, such as the College of Physicians and Surgeons, asking them to fully disclose information about investigations they conduct. Similar letters were also sent to three transitional councils (for practices, such as homeopathy, that are on their way to becoming self-regulated).

Hoskins asked the regulatory colleges and councils to develop new transparency measures to assist Ontarians in making informed decisions about their care. He wants them to report back by Dec. 1 on specific measures they plan to undertake.

Hoskins also sent letters to the 36 public health units across the province asking them to be fully transparent in conducing investigations and reporting results. They have also been told to get back to him with their plans by Dec. 1.

In recent weeks, a Star investigation has revealed that patients of the Rothbart Centre for Pain Care have developed serious infections, including meningitis and epidural abscesses. A Toronto Public Health probe found nine people were infected from August to November 2012 and that there were 170 infection-control deficiencies.

The TPH investigation report was never made public. The Star obtained it from a patient who developed disabilities after getting infected at the clinic. She received it only after being told to file freedom-of-information request for it.

The Star also discovered that 11 patients have contracted hepatitis C during outbreaks at three colonoscopy clinics since 2011. TPH investigations into those outbreaks were also never made public.

The CPSO inspected the four clinics in question but never made the outbreaks public.

Torstar News Service

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