Pumps for cancer medication past due for inspection, says Manitoba patient

For ten years, Jennifer Zyla has been in and out of Victoria General Hospital following a breast cancer diagnosis in 2008. Her cancer was declared as ‘no evidence of disease,’ or NED, many years ago, but part of her continued fight sees her going for intravenous treatment every three weeks.

About a year ago, Zyla noticed something was off about the pump being used to give her medicine.

“The infusion pumps have an inspection date on them, and I noticed that it was 2018, it was spring, and the inspection said August 2017.”

Zyla said then it happened again, and again, and even as recently as Wednesday. She said she’s alerted staff four times, and still hasn’t seen changes.

“When you’re a cancer patient it is confusing, it is scary, it is a hundred things,” said Zyla. “You don’t need this.”

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said the risk to patients is very low.

“Occasionally, inspections are not completed on time due to a variety of logistical reasons, such as equipment being in use by a patient at the time an inspection is scheduled, or portable equipment having been moved to another location along with a patient,” said a WRHA spokesperson in an email to CTV News.

“I don’t know what an inspection entails. As a cancer patient, I feel uncomfortable seeing a piece of equipment that’s infusing medication into me that’s past inspection,” said Zyla.

The WRHA said inspection of the infusion pumps includes a number of items.

“The preventative maintenance work on these pumps involves checking the battery life – the batteries are rechargeable and the units can also be plugged into the wall – and checking the condition of the power cord, as well as performing an accuracy test.”

It said the pumps are all equipped with alarms and error messages that would immediately alert staff if there was ever a malfunction.

“The date does indicate a period for preventative service, but by no means is it an indication of whether or not the equipment is performing properly,” said the WRHA spokesperson.

Zyla’s next appointment is scheduled for the end of January.

“I hope that someone would say, you know, we’ve addressed the issue. All the pumps are inspected. They’re stickered,” said Zyla.

The WRHA said leadership at Victoria Hospital has investigated this issue and believe it is a one-off situation. It said staff members are now working out a schedule to perform the required inspections without affecting patient care.