Hundreds of former patients of a Calgary midwife clinic told of potential exposure to hep B

·2 min read
Alberta Health Services is sending notices to former patients of a Calgary midwife clinic after inspectors found proper sterilization protocols were not being followed, putting clients at potential risk of exposure to Hepatitis B. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)
Alberta Health Services is sending notices to former patients of a Calgary midwife clinic after inspectors found proper sterilization protocols were not being followed, putting clients at potential risk of exposure to Hepatitis B. (David Bajer/CBC - image credit)

Alberta Health Services has notified more than 1,500 former patients of the Calgary Midwives Collective, telling them about potential exposure to hepatitis B after health inspectors determined it was not clear whether staff were properly sterilizing the clinic's medical equipment.

Officials say health inspectors were called to the clinic about a mask complaint in March when they discovered that staff hadn't been properly documenting their sterilization procedures since opening in 2013.

The clinic was then shut down.

"So, based off of that we didn't have confidence that that was followed explicitly and completely for the entire nine years they were open and because of that we are issuing this notice," said Dr. Franco Rizzuti, Medical Officer of Health for the Calgary zone.

Notices went out this week

Following an AHS investigation, notices were mailed this week to anyone who had visited the clinic between 2013  and March. Rizzuti said the risk of exposure is low because many people get vaccinated against this virus in school or when travelling.

And, he said, for those who aren't immunized, most recover from an infection relatively quickly. But he says some may be left with lingering effects, which can be treated.

"It can do long-term liver damage if not treated, not given the appropriate supports, so hence us providing this notification," said Rizzuti.

Hepatitis B is an infection in the liver that's caused by a virus. Symptoms include poor appetite, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice. Some people don't have any symptoms.

One out of 10 adults who are infected with hepatitis B have an infection that doesn't go away, called a chronic infection.

Rizzuti said to prevent the spread of infection from one person to another, medical equipment must be cleaned, disinfected and sterilized according to provincial health standards.

Educated on standards

The College of Midwives of Alberta says their members are educated on those standards, but this incident has prompted it to conduct an audit and implement a retraining program provincewide.

"Midwives are primary care practitioners and they have the safety of their clients as a priority so I just really want to enforce that,"  said Sharon Prusky, registrar at the college.

Prusky said the college has launched its own investigation and, pending the outcome, there may be some repercussions.

"CMA takes all patient safety related issues seriously," said Prusky.

After the clinic owner received training on the proper sterilization of medical equipment and the implementation of single-use disposable medical devises, AHS said the closure order was lifted but then the owner voluntarily closed it down.

While the risk to clients is considered very low, AHS is advising all individuals who received prenatal, delivery and/or post-natal care services through the CMC to call their physician to arrange for simple, confidential testing.

Potentially affected individuals may also call Health Link at 811 to arrange testing, or with any questions or concerns.