Thursday, July 19, 2012

When a doctor has Hep C

When a doctor has Hep C

Fear of transmission from physician to patient has some regulators taking no chances

by Julia Belluz on Thursday, July 19, 2012 6:53am

When most people learn they have hep C, they worry about their personal health and what comes next. But what happens when a surgeon gets sick? What is the risk to a patient, and do the benefits of an infected doctor’s continued service outweigh the possibility of harm to those he treats? What should he tell his colleagues, his patients? These questions are mostly left to provincial medical regulators to answer, a key part of the delicate dance they perform around protecting both the public and the medical profession. According to Gregory, the CPSO failed on both fronts, and so badly, that he decided to do what doctors rarely do and go public with his health status. 
In May 2011, a year and a half after learning about Gregory’s hep C status, the CPSO restricted the surgeon’s practice with 12 hours’ notice. He was barred from doing the major operations—the aortic aneurysm repairs, thoracotomies, amputations and arterial surgeries—that accounted for nearly half of his work and income. “If there was any immediate danger [to the public], they should have done something sooner,” he says. In a letter to the college, Gregory wrote, “No attempt was made to calculate my individual risk of infecting a patient . . . and the infectious disease ‘expert’ on my panel concluded, ‘in this limited time frame, I cannot assess Dr. Gregory’s risk.”

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