Thousands of medical records of patients at the Lanaudière hospital center (CHDL) were soiled following water damage that occurred last week in the archives department. Paper documents must be decontaminated, so they are inaccessible and could remain so for an “indefinite” period, according to the health establishment. Local unions and doctors believe that it is urgent to digitize all the files of the hospital located near Joliette.
In a memo to CHDL staff, dated last week and obtained by The duty, the CISSS de Lanaudière confirms this “regrettable incident” which occurred on July 3. “Water damage, involving contaminated water, resulted in damage to several files stored there,” management wrote.
“Because of this situation, we are forced to immediately send the affected files for decontamination in order to ensure their recovery and guarantee their integrity,” continues the CISSS. The health establishment specifies that “certain files will not be available, and this, for an indefinite time”.
Contacted by The duty on this subject on Monday, the CISSS de Lanaudière indicates that 6000 medical files from the CHDL have been “affected”. He explains that the blockage of a sanitary drainage pipe caused a backflow of water affecting “two rooms”. “As it was a drainage line, not a supply line, the amount of water was relatively low,” an email said.
The president of the Union of workers of the CISSS of Lanaudière-CSN, Simon Deschênes, speaks rather of a “big damage”. Its members, administrative officers and housekeeping workers, had to clean the premises and move documents to prevent them from being contaminated. Brown colored water dripped from the ceiling onto the shelves where the files were filed. The pipe that burst was on the floor above the archives.
“It was far from spring water,” says Simon Deschênes. It was toilet water! »
The APTS Lanaudière, which represents archivists, considers it “worrying” that 6,000 medical files – out of the approximately 540,000 in the hospital – cannot be consulted. The union’s vice-president, Valérie Lepage, points out that these documents can contain crucial information during a hospitalization. “If it’s a known patient who went to the hospital not long ago, it could be that he has a thick file, that he has X conditions, a level of care [p. ex. : pas de manoeuvre de réanimation] “, she underlines.
Valérie Lepage believes that the CISSS should contact affected patients to gather basic information about their case. A medical specialist at the hospital, who is not authorized by his CISSS to speak to the media, also believes that the population must be informed. “I don’t understand why the patients haven’t been,” he said. We are the ones managing the discontent. »
The doctor says he has not had access to the medical records of two or three patients each day since the water damage. He must therefore question them on the reason for which they consult him or ask them for information on their health problems. However, “many” patients ignore or do not remember all this information, he says.
“Previous records are our memory,” says the specialist. He explains that he can see the results of a blood test or an examination on the Dossier santé Québec platform. “But why did I ask for a scanning, No. »
It was far from spring water. It was toilet water!
A belated digitization
The unions consulted believe that it is high time to digitize medical records at the CHDL, as is already the case at Pierre-Le Gardeur, the other hospital of the CISSS de Lanaudière. Valérie Lepage reports that the digitization project began in 2016 at the CHDL, but that nothing has come of it since.
According to the CISSS de Lanaudière, a clinical computerization project began last March and should be completed in 2024. Valérie Lepage expresses doubts about the timeline. “We are almost in the beginning stages. We have just had the ministry’s approval for the digitization plan. Currently, I am told that they are deciding on their strategy, ”she argues.
The Dr Julien du Tremblay, specialist in internal medicine at the CHDL, thinks that the digitization of medical records will make life easier for care teams, and not just in the event of water damage. Getting your hands on a paper file is sometimes difficult, he notes.
“Me, I may need a file one day, but it is not available because it has gone to another clinic [externe], he cites as an example. The other day, I’m not at the hospital, but the file is there. I come back two days later, the file is gone again because there was another doctor who needed it. Added to this yo-yo game is the problem of “lost” or “wanted” files. “It was already happening frequently before [l’incident] not to have a file, he continues. The only difference is that there, I do not have access to it for several days. And maybe even longer.