Thirty-nine of the 60 recommendations of the Cameron report are either done or have substantial progress, Health Minister Jerome Kennedy announced Wednesday to the satisfaction of the provincial cancer society and the lawyer who settled a class-action lawsuit over the errors related to breast cancer.
One of Justice Margaret Camer-on's key recommendations in March 2009 was the health minister give an update to the House of Assembly by the end of this month on how far along the province's four health authorities are in implementing her report.
Cameron's report on the scandal particularly denounced the state of Eastern Health's lab as well as massive failures in disclosing the errors.
Some 425 patients received the wrong results at Eastern Health's immunohistochemistry lab from hormone receptor tests to determine treatment options between 1997 and 2005. Some 127 patients have died, though an exact cause will never be known.
Kennedy's update came on the heels of revelations last month of errors in another Eastern Health lab. Some 212 organ transplant and immune disorder patients who were being monitored for dosages of the drug cyclosporine are having their cases reviewed because of errors in the biochemistry lab between June 2009 and February. One teenage boy remains in the Janeway hospital.
Eastern Health forced its clinical chief of laboratory medicine to resign leadership duties because the errors weren't told to the executive in a timely manner.
"I feel we have made significant progress in implementing the recommendations of Cameron. The last month has heightened the need for scrutiny," Kennedy said, pledging to deliver another update on the Cameron Report next year.
"Unfortunately the cyclosporine issue and the effect on patients - especially the young man, the teenager - at the end of the day this has brought it all to a head. It's unfortunate it has had to happen this way, but ... there has been and there will be increased scrutiny on our labs."
Lawyer Ches Crosbie, who represented breast cancer patients in the $17.5-million lawsuit, said those who sat through the Cameron Inquiry weren't optimistic because some personnel with Eastern Health seemed bent on frustrating change.
But he noted Eastern Health has shifted some personnel.
Crosbie said he supports Kennedy, who can't be "bamboozled" and said Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski has demonstrated she can't be easily deterred.
"Frankly, you have to build it down before you can build it back up again," Crosbie said.
Crosbie said there should be annual updates on the Cameron Report for the foreseeable future to ensure the effort is continuing.
Both Kennedy and Kaminski apologized again Wednesday to patients and their families affected by the hormone receptor errors.
"We can't say it often enough nor can we tell them how sincerely sorry for the role we played as Eastern Health in this significant issue for them and their families," Kaminski said.
Eastern Health has not yet restarted the hormone receptor testing, but Kaminski said internal testing is matching the test results that are coming from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
Neither has the authority put the pathology lab under one roof instead of having sites at St. Clare's and Health Sciences - that is three to four months away.
Kennedy acknowledged some of the recommendations are "taking too long," such as the recruiting of patient navigators with a focus on cancer care. Those were approved in last year's budget.
He said some were quick, like apology legislation but others are complex. It will take three years, for example to have all the labs in the province accredited by a national firm.
Among the other issues outstanding are a plan to tackle a shortage of lab technologists.
Scott Antle, acting executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society said it's clear there have been some "significant movements" on the Cameron Report.
"Certainty there's an appetite to improve the system as a whole," Antle said.
Linda Ross, president of the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women, said Kennedy and the regional health authority CEOs recognize how critical it is for women in the province to hear the response to the Cameron Report.
"They are taking very seriously the recommendations by Justice Cameron," she said.
Kennedy and Kaminski were joined Wednesday by Central Health CEO Karen McGrath, Western Health CEO Susan Gillam and Labrador-Grenfell Health CEO Boyd Rowe.
Kennedy said the province will spend whatever it takes to fully implement the report. It has spent $21.4 million in Budget 2009 to respond directly to the hormone receptor scandal and $54.3 million on equipment and measures towards electronic health records since 2007-08.
There were 60 recommendations in March 2009 by Justice Margaret Cameron after she heard testimony at the inquiry examining errors in hormone receptor testing. The tests - to determine treatment options for breast cancer patients - were faulty between 1997 and 2005.
Thirty-nine recommendations have either been implemented or have substantial progress, according to the update tabled by Health Minister Jerome Kennedy Wednesday.
A quick look at some left to be done:
Provincial director of pathology and laboratory medicine - the job has been advertised.
Mandatory lab accreditation - a firm has been selected but it will take three years to accredit all the labs in the province.
Reports on provincial labs by two national experts still have some recommendations outstanding.
Proficiency testing within labs - external and internal audits to be standardized by April 2011.
Electronic occurrence reporting system to be complete by March 2012.
Putting in place and documenting standard operating and procedures in the labs targeted for completion by March 2011.
Laboratory human resources planning committee formed at Eastern Health and provincial working group to address shortage of medical technologists. Draft report expected in May.
Health Professions Act allowing certification of lab technologists to be introduced in spring sitting.
Crisis management plans done in three authorities, but Central Health Authority just finished a draft.
Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information still working on provincewide electronic medical record system.
Establishment of six patient navigators with focus on patient care - three at Eastern Health and one at each of the other health authorities approved in Budget 2009-10, but the navigators are yet to be recruited.
Complete breakdown available at
Source: Department of Health and Community Services