'Sick to my stomach': Dirty clinic's patients shaken, angry

1 / 3

'Sick to my stomach': Dirty clinic's patients shaken, angry

'Sick to my stomach': Dirty clinic's patients shaken, angry

Patients of an Ottawa clinic under investigation for using dirty equipment say they're worried about their health, and angry the problems were allowed to continue for so long.

The Main Street Family Centre in Stittsville was ordered to stop performing minor medical procedures in April following a complaint from a member of the public about the clinic's cleanliness. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) investigated, and was unable to determine if the equipment had been properly cleaned or sterilized in the nearly 15 years since the clinic opened in December 2003.

"[I'm] sick to my stomach. I just can't imagine the magnitude of it. I can't imagine it would go on that long," said Louise Sullivan, who received a letter Thursday informing her she was among the approximately 4,600 patients who may have been exposed to hepatitis B, C, or HIV.

Sullivan said she expected the letter because she had a tick removed at the clinic several years ago.

"You lose confidence of course in the clinic, and now there's going to be ... I don't know how many thousands of people are trying to now find a new family doctor."

Sullivan said she feels betrayed and wonders how long it will take for her test results to come back.

Those sentiments were echoed by other former patients who arrived at a Stittsville lab Friday afternoon to undergo blood tests.

"You don't mess with people's health," said Colleen Cantwell, who received a letter along with her 28-year-old son. She said the experience has shaken her trust in the health-care system.

"You don't like to always be afraid to go into a place that is supposedly there to help you. Cut corners somewhere else. Don't cut it with my health or my son's health."

Clinic resuming procedures

Ottawa Public Health told the clinic on April 25 it could no longer perform any minor medical procedure, but after followup inspections the clinic was given the green light on July 12 to resume all procedures except suturing, according to Dr. Geneviève Cadieux, Ottawa's associate medical officer of health.

OPH said mental health resources are also available to anyone who needs support after receiving a letter.

Some former patients are demanding more than reassurance, however.

"They need to get something in place. There's health inspections in place when you go to a restaurant. There should be something in place for this as well," said Cantwell. "There's a lapse in care."