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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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