Alberta family says problems remain, years after son’s cancer death sparked review
Five years after Greg Price died of testicular cancer, his father says he’s disappointed more hasn’t been done to address some of the problems that contributed to his son’s death.
A 2013 report by the Health Quality Council of Alberta (HQCA) found that Greg had been unable to access timely medical care because the system was unable to provide proper continuity of care. To address these problems, the HQCA report made 13 recommendations for change, but Price’s father says many of those changes haven’t been made.
“We’re disappointed really — there has been some progress made, but there’s an awful lot that’s still left to be done,” David Price said.
A doctor first identified a suspicious lump near Greg’s testicle during a routine check up at a walk-in clinic.
He was then referred to a surgeon, but waited more than three months for a response. Price also had to wait several weeks for a CT scan, even though it was marked urgent.
Then, when the results came back, Greg wasn’t contacted because the doctor he had originally seen had left to join another practice. After the scan revealed cancer, he was referred to a specialist, but again his care was delayed.
Greg eventually had surgery, but two days later he experienced severe swelling. He tried to reach his oncologist and when he could not, he went to the emergency department. He died the following day.
The HQCA report’s recommendations were directed at Alberta Health Services, The Alberta Medical Association, The Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, The Alberta Society of Radiologists and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
In 2015, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) implemented a major change to its policy, strengthening rules around the kind of care family doctors are required to provide patients outside of office hours.
Price says he’s encouraged by the work done by the CPSA, as well as changes that have been made by Alberta Medical Association and Alberta Society of Radiologists, but he’d like to see more action from the province and Alberta Health Services.
“Recently we are seeing less transparency from the system and less appetite to investigate and openly learn from failure,” the Price family said in a statement on the anniversary of their son’s death.
The family says they’re also disappointed that patients are still waiting for access to digital health records.
A spokesperson for Alberta Health says the province is continuing to work on improvements to strengthen continuity of care.
The department sent Global News the following statement in response to the concerns raised by the Price family:
“The HQCA’s 2013 Continuity of Patient Care report identified a number of important changes that needed to occur in Alberta’s health care system to improve continuity of care. Following the report, Alberta Health has worked with Alberta Health Services and other health care partners to improve continuity of care, and the 2015 follow up report from the HQCA noted that significant work had been done towards implementing the recommendations.
We are constantly working to improve health care and provide the very best care for Albertans, and this includes ongoing efforts to expand the use of technology in our health care system. Alberta Health is providing $400 million to AHS to implement a clinical information system that will create a single electronic health record for every Albertan, ensuring all AHS health providers have access to and contribute to the same information. This single source of information will support team-based, integrated care with a focus on the patient and the efficient and effective provision of services.
At the same time, Alberta Health Services is actively working with primary care, family physicians and specialists in a variety of areas to improve integration of care for patients to ensure safe transitions of care between care providers and different healthcare services.
Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary has led the way provincially with several patient-centred care practices, including:
- “Family presence” guidelines, which recognize key family members as important to patient wellbeing and should not be excluded outside of normal visitor hours.
- Monthly welcome sessions for new staff, including a presentation from a patient advocate to highlight the importance of patient and family-centred care.
- Patients who have undergone urology surgical procedures are able to contact the urologist on-call directly for concerns after hours, rather than being referred to the ED.
- Formatted whiteboards have been installed in all patient rooms to support communication between the health team and patient team.
Alberta Health values the work of the Health Quality Council of Alberta and has increased funding to the council by $241,000 this year. Efforts to strengthen continuity of care are ongoing, and we’ll continue to work closely with AHS and our health partners to advance the important work in this area.”
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