DENTAL NEWS: Family seeks answers in woman's death after she visited dental clinic

A Toronto woman’s mysterious death last year is raising questions about a little-known loophole that allows hospitals to withhold internal review information from families and the public. 


Pamela Minocha, 33, visited a dental clinic in May 2013 with a toothache. She was prescribed antibiotics for an abscess, but began vomiting shortly after taking them and was transported by ambulance to St. Joseph’s Health Centre in Toronto. St. Joseph’s staff reassured Minocha’s parents in Calgary that she would be fine. But by the time they were on a plane to see her, she was dead.

An autopsy suggested Minocha had an allergic reaction to the antibiotic. However, the family told CTV News that they haven’t been able to see the results of the hospital’s review of the incident.

Patient advocate Natalie Mehra, of the Ontario Health Coalition, said information about Minocha’s death is protected under the Quality of Care Information Protection Act (QCIPA) which Mehra says allows hospitals to keep the results of internal investigations a secret -- providing a potential shield for healthcare workers.
“It could be anything really,” Mehra said. “But the bottom line is it enables hospitals to hide that information from families and anybody.”

Critics say QCIPA is a discretionary measure that hospitals can use to trump all other legislation, including freedom-of-information law, and allow Ontario hospitals to hide the results of critical care investigations from families, the public and even coroners.

In a letter sent to the Minocha family on May 7, 2014, St. Joseph's states they are sharing the findings of the "Quality of Care" review.
The letter reads: "The findings of that review are that your sister received intensive and appropriate treatment. This corresponds with the Coroner's Report that showed the care was adequate and appropriate.

"At this point, we consider the review complete," the letter continues. "I understand over the this past year you have had a number of discussions and correspondence from physicians involved in the care in order to respond to specific questions you have had regarding the care.

"I hope this has provided you with a better understanding of the care that was provided." In an additional statement sent to CTV News, officials at St. Joseph's Health Centre in Toronto wrote: “Every effort has been made to address the family’s questions and concerns.”

The family disagrees. Minocha’s brother, Arvin, believes that information provided by the hospital has been too little -- and too late. He says his family has never had a face-to-face meeting with the hospital, and alleges St. Joseph's did not "communicate regularly."

"The simple face is that we still -- a year and a half later -- do not know what happened at the hospital," he says. "We have many unanswered questions."
Arvin notes that the May letter only contained nine sentences, and "contained no facts, no recommendations (and no) action plan."

“And then the coroner is saying, ‘We don’t know why your sister died,’” he said. “And this will take four to six months -- and we are in month 16 now,” he told CTV News.
In July, Ontario’s Ministry of Health launched a review of the QCIPA which it hopes will be completed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Minocha’s family says they will keep asking questions until they get some answers to make sure others don’t suffer the same fate.
“No one should have to deal with this,” Arvin Minocha said.

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