I have spent several days going through a stack of internal communications related to the Ottawa public health response to the investigation of Dr. Christiane Farazli.
You’ll remember that Farazli has been under review by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario after her endoscopy clinic failed an inspection in May 2011. The college says the clinic wasn’t properly cleaning equipment between patients. That prompted public health to notify about 6,800 of Farazli’s patients about the inspection.
The email trail between public health, the college, the Ministry of Health and Public Health Agency Ontario is what you would expect when a major health problem pops up — there’s back and forth about responsibilities and how to communicate the issue to patients and the public.
There’s nothing in the documents — which I received through access to information and which were partially blanked out, citing legal/privacy reasons — that tell us much more than what we already know about the investigation.
One thing is for certain: This was a first for the public health unit. It had to dip into literature and research to determine how they would measure the risk to patients. “This is new work for us, as we have never conducted a risk assessment such as the one required for this situation,” program manager Brenda MacLean told a manager at Public Health Agency Ontario in August 2011.
Indeed, as Dr. Isra Levy, the city’s medical officer of health, has already suggested, public health had its hand forced by the media — particularly, it appears, the Sun and CBC — who were sniffing around the story before it went public. Sensing the story was about to break, Levy called a snap press conference on a Saturday to make sure the facts were out there without panicking the city.
“I decided to move to contain the story as much as possible with accurate information because I judged this approach to be wiser than the other options to the interests of potentially affected patients and to the overall public interest objectives that have motivated me in this matter,” Levy told health professionals, including Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Arlene King, in an email on Oct. 16, 2011, a day after that first press conference.
It’s worth noting that although we haven’t heard much from Farazli about the whole ordeal, the documents suggest she was co-operative with public health. Interestingly, she says in one email to public health that her Carling Ave. endoscopy suite in question is “permanently closed.”
A lawsuit by her patients is still sitting in court (the allegations haven’t been tested). As for the college’s investigation, it’s been quietly ongoing ever since the inspection.
Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at ottawasun.com.