Montreal Hospital Begins HIV Testing Thousands of Child Patients Operated on by HIV-Positive Surgeon
January 26, 2004
A Montreal children's hospital by Saturday had already tested 400 former child patients and scheduled testing for 500 more who were operated on between 1990 and 2003 by a now-deceased surgeon whom the hospital administration recently learned was HIV-positive, the CP/Ottawa Citizen reports. Thus far, no children have tested HIV-positive (CP/Ottawa Citizen, 1/25). The hospital plans to contact and test more than 2,600 former patients, according to Reuters/New York Times (Reuters/New York Times, 1/23). Although the Sainte-Justine Children's Hospital has "insisted" that all young patients operated on by Dr. Maria Di Lorenzo be contacted and informed that Di Lorenzo -- who died on Aug. 16, 2003 -- was HIV-positive, hospital officials said the chance that any children contracted HIV from operations is "extremely small," according to Toronto's Globe and Mail (Picard/Peritz, Globe and Mail, 1/23). Di Lorenzo in 1991 informed her immediate supervisor of her HIV-positive status and a committee was formed to determine what medical work she could do, according to the AP/Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. However, the hospital had no "written follow-ups" on Di Lorenzo after 1996 (AP/Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, 1/22). Although Di Lorenzo's immediate supervisor was aware of her HIV status, the hospital administration said that it was unaware of the doctor's HIV status until a "few weeks ago" and that Di Lorenzo continued to operate on patients until her death in 2003, according to the Toronto Star (Cernetig, Toronto Star, 1/23). The hospital on Wednesday sent 700 letters to patients who were operated on by Di Lorenzo and said they would contact all other potentially affected patients in coming days (Carroll, CanWest News Service/National Post, 1/23). As of Saturday, a call center established at the hospital had received 7,200 phone calls from the public and families of former patients, according to the CP/Citizen (CP/Ottawa Citizen, 1/25). Official investigations by both the hospital and public health authorities have been initiated, but the Canadian Medical Association said that health care workers do not have an "explicit obligation" to tell patients about their HIV status, according to the Globe and Mail. The Quebec College of Physicians is preparing a more detailed set of guidelines for HIV-positive doctors (Globe and Mail, 1/23).
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