Thursday, October 27th, 2016

Patient Safety Advocate Leslie Worthington: Her Father’s Voice, Part II


Leslie Worthington continues the search for accountability in Canadian health care. The family members of other patients experiencing medical errors begin contacting her for help in navigating a closed-door system. On one occasion Leslie and another woman offer each other support by picketing near Concordia Hospital in an effort to gain access to information and answers to their questions. Her desire to see the recommendations from her father’s case fully implemented and real improvements made to patient safety lead Leslie to attend a workshop on patient safety in Vancouver in October 2006. Soon after this event she joins Patients for Patient Safety Canada (PFPSC), a new group offering to represent the patient voice. 

Help From the Media
In June 2007 Leslie finds out that the medical chart audit promised by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) two years earlier never happened. Realizing that her voice is beginning to fall on deaf ears she turns to the media. The Chief Patient Safety Officer for the health authority confirms the absence of an audit in an article appearing in the June 27 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press. According to the article, they abandoned the audit after discovering medical charting problems in areas beyond the emergency department. The article goes on to state that measures have been taken to address the problem. The absence of an audit becomes a public issue for the WRHA and a few days later its President and Chief Executive Officer agrees to conduct one.

New Apology Legislation
In November, Leslie attends another session of the Manitoba Legislature this time to offer her support for new apology legislation. Like many of its supporters, she hopes the new Apology Act will make it easier for those involved in medical errors to offer an apology to patients and their families as it would be inadmissible in a court of law.

The family of John Klassen eventually receives a public apology from the President and Chief Operating Officer of Concordia Hospital during his appearance on a local radio program. It comes after the two-year statute of limitations expires and there is no longer any legal standing for filing a statement of claim. Leslie approaches the apologetic executive about sponsoring the cost of a patient to attend a patient safety conference and he obliges. A real turning point in their communications occurs one evening when Leslie approaches an open microphone at a public forum held by the Manitoba Patient Safety Institute. “I thanked Henry Tessmann for listening to me and for caring enough about patients to sponsor just a patient. The next day I received an email from him thanking me,” says Leslie. She frequently communicates with Tessmann on issues of patient safety and believes this type of personal contact offers a more collaborative approach for implementing changes.

The Sacrifices  
Medical errors cost John Klassen his life. Four years after his death and due to the undying efforts of his daughter, the WRHA offers $20,000 in compensation to his widow. It is conditional upon the signing of a release from the estate. The Klassen family remains hopeful that all of the recommendations from the review of their father’s case will be fully implemented to help prevent the same medical mistakes from being repeated on future patients.

In October 2008 Leslie holds a candlelight vigil at the Manitoba Legislature during Canadian Patient Safety Week in remembrance of the lives lost to medical errors. In the same month Patients for Patient Safety Canada and its parent organization the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, an arm’s length government agency, break off relations with her. In a letter dated January 26, 2009, the group recommends she find a new venue for her voice stating “We recognize that you seek to represent the patient’s voice and encourage you to find a venue for your voice that aligns with the message you wish to share.”

Leslie Worthington is a determined, outspoken and fearless advocate for patient safety. She is the type of person the Canadian health care system often tries to silence. Leslie’s patient advocacy voice remains strong and her message is clear “I can’t bring my dad back, but if I can save one other life it’s worth it.” And she is not alone in her quest. The call for accountability in the Canadian health care system can be heard from patients and their family members from across our nation. Leslie’s journey makes us mindful of the sacrifices for making this patient advocacy voice heard; a voice whose call must be answered.  

Watch for upcoming articles on patient safety advocate Leslie Worthington. She can be contacted by email at:

Note: Articles from the Winnipeg Free Press archives are available only through paid subscription thereby limiting the ability to provide direct links within this post. More information on Leslie’s story can be found in the following articles featured in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper archives:

  • College dismisses conflict allegations: ‘It’s doctors reviewing doctors’: complainant
    by David Kuxhaus, Thursday, March 2, 2006
  • Woman seeks answers to why mom nearly died in hospital
    by Martin Cash, Saturday, August 12, 2006
  • Dad dead; family wants answers: Outraged that hospital never did an audit
    by Jen Skerritt, Monday, June 25, 2007
  • WRHA to audit medical errors
    by Jen Skerritt, Wednesday, June 27, 2007
  • Say sorry without fear of legal action
    by Bruce Owen, Thursday, February 7, 2008


8 Responses to “Patient Safety Advocate Leslie Worthington: Her Father’s Voice, Part II”
  1. John Penney says:

    I have just read Part II of Leslie Worthington’s story about her father. I find it incredible that she was dismissed from Patients for Patient Safety Canada and its parent organization the Canadian Patient Safety Institute, who stated “We recognize that you seek to represent the patient’s voice and encourage you to find a venue for your voice that aligns with the message you wish to share.”

    What is the role of Patients for Patient Safety Canada if it is not “to represent the patient’s voice”? Why are we spending taxpayer’s money on a “patient safety organization” that expels someone trying to speak out on behalf of patients. The Canadian Patient Safety Institute and Patients for Patient Safety Canada appear to be health care worker run organizations with members who are more interested in their big pay cheques and protecting themselves rather than doing anything concrete for patients. Maybe it’s time for the government to consider spending their money on something that will truly benefit the patient.

  2. Ed Mendoza says:

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said

  3. Kartik says:

    Our system is in need of SERIOUS reform!

  4. recent patient at concordia says:

    i was in the concordia for 4 nights after a shoulder replacement surgery…..with one screw up after another, my complaints were never taken seriously……was told by one nurse that there was no protcol for shoulder surgery patients……and at one point thAT THERE WASN;T ANYTHING ELSE THEY could do for me… i decided to leave…….this was a sat…..was told there was no one to write a prescription that weekend…….left with no pain mangement…….and a couple sheets of info
    one nurse lisa seemed to be the only one on the ball… was a nightmare hospital……..

  5. K Dobres says:

    My mother was recently in Concordia for knee replacement surgery. She was ignored, laughed at, mistreated, and witness to all this taking place with other patients as well as herself. My mother had a catheter in place after the surgery and mentioned to the nurse that she REALLY felt like she needed to pee, she was told that this was normal. No, it wasn’t. The bag was so full of urine (bloody urine at that) that it was backing up into her bladder!
    My mother is very short so getting into a high bed is a challenge for her normally. She had proven to the nurses that she could get up and go to the washroom herself, but she was laughed at when she fought to get back into her bed. Her leg is stapled shut, she suffers from arthritis, is awaiting surgery on one of her shoulders and you laugh at her?
    My mother had asked for a hot water bottle and was given a warm blanket for the arthritis in her back instead, that was fine. One of the reasons she had so much trouble getting back into bed by herself was that there were 16 blankets tucked in behind her along with half a dozen pillows. They gave her shit for hoardung them all to herself! Common sense would dictate: you take one back when you replace it with a warm one.
    A nurse argued with the lady next to her for two whole nights about who and where she was. She was stapped to the bed and had alzheimrs, why would anyone argue with the poor old dear?
    She had to find a wheelchair on her own in order to go outside for fresh air.
    She had asked for an advocate at one point and was told that there was no one around.
    It would take up to an hour for someone to answer a call button.
    One afternoon the lady next to my mother knocked out her IV. but no one was coming to answer the call button, so my mother being a retired ICU nurse got out of bed to stop the blood from pouring out of the syringe end and turned off the IV unit. She was told to mind her own damned business and to get back into her bed.
    She has no idea of which drugs she was being given while she was there, The nurse could not even pronounce “wellbutrin” forget about being told what they were supposed to do for her.
    One of her prescriptions had to be taped up and given back to her because the nurse thought that it was not needed.
    The other prescriptions that she was given had the wrong name on them. Those were replaced. We don’t know if there was supposed to be another prescription for nerve pain or not because the doctor was not there.
    My mothers doctor had told her that she was to be in the hospital until Monday when he would be back to see her. Physio argued that she was to be released on the Saturday before. She called us right away in order to “get me the hell out of here.” “I’m never going back.”
    We were told “Don’t call the hospital if you have any questions, call healthlinks. As soon as you are discharged your records go into storage.”
    We picked my mother up on Saturday afternoon, I am still waiting for a call regarding her stay. She will never go back there and I dare say no one else in my family will ever be a patient there either.

  6. Olga Kalamkarova says:

    Please listen this true story concerning medical ethics, doctors mistakes and euthanasia on the radio for Feb 6

    Please write your comments on the radio:

    Please help to organise discussion on this issue.

    • admin says:

      Thank you for sharing this link to your story. Your experience raises many important questions concerning the doctor/patient relationship and doctor-assisted suicide. Thank you for speaking out.

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