Justice sends cancer cluster case back

Decision was 'patently unreasonable,' writes Savage

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has sent a workers compensation tribunal decision regarding a cancer cluster at Mission Memorial Hospital (MMH) back to that appeals body.

The Workers’ Compensation Board initially said the breast cancer cases of Patricia Schmidt, Katrina Hammer and Anne MacFarlane were not caused by their work at MMH’s lab, but a Workers’ Compensation Administrative Tribunal (WCAT) disagreed in 2010 and 2011. The WCAT hears workers’ compensation appeals and is independent of WorkSafeBC.

Fraser Health Authority disputed the tribunals’ decision, and Justice John Savage’s judgment was released this past Tuesday. The FHA wanted the case dismissed, but Savage said sending it back to WCAT would allow them to hear any new evidence that might alter the decision.

Savage wrote that the WCAT’s decision was “patently unreasonable and cannot stand” and that, “There was no positive evidence that the petitioners’ cancer was caused by occupational factors.”

He also noted that “a higher-than-expected rate of cancer in a workplace cannot alone provide evidence that the cancer was caused by occupational factors” given the Occupational Health and Safety Agency for Healthcare in B.C. (OHSAH) report into the issue states clusters of cancer in a workplace are statistically certain to arise in various places and times.

OHSAH conducted an investigation and released its findings March 2004 after 11 employees at MMH were found to have cancer; seven of them breast. It concluded that the risk factors were no longer present at the hospital, and that the increased incidence of cancer could not be determined, but could have been due to:

• past exposures to chemical carcinogens or, less likely, ionizing radiation;

• a statistical anomaly; or

• reproductive or other non-occupational risk factors.

The air intake vent of the hospital lab was located near the incinerator smokestack where medical waste used to be burned. The OHSAH report noted that medical incineration of infectious wastes and plastics is a public concern. Mission’s incinerator was decommissioned in 1994.

– with Record files

Just Posted

/  Bob Friesen Photos
PHOTOS: Father’s Day Parade cruises through Mission

Taking It To The Streets event featured about 100 vintage vehicles

Special weather statement issued for Fraser Valley as first summer heat arrives June 20, 2021, and set to persist all week. (Photo by James Day on Unsplash)
Second day of hot temperatures rippling across Fraser Valley

Communities from Abbotsford to Hope will see daytime high maximum temps of 32 degrees

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Emergency crews shut down White Rock’s Five Corners district on Feb. 19, 2020 following an assault. (File photo)
Trial underway in February 2020 death of White Rock senior

Ross Banner charged with manslaughter following Five Corners altercation

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

Most Read