Local News

Cumberland County Health Department under fire for failure to notify patients of results

Posted June 12

— The Cumberland County Health Department is under scrutiny for not properly notifying some patients that their screenings for breast and cervical cancer had an abnormal result.

An emergency meeting of the three-member Finance Committee was called Monday by the county manager to discuss an audit of the health department.

"We felt like there was misinformation out in the public and it was time to get the correct information in the hands of the public," said County Manager Amy Cannon.

Two years ago, it was discovered that between 2010 and 2015, the health Department failed to notify eight women in a timely manner that their breast or cervical exams came back with an abnormal reading.

The coordinator of the notification program was fired in 2015.

"Well, I certainly apologize that we didn't notify in a timely manner. They were notified and we'll certainly try to do better," said Health Department Director Buck Wilson.

The county’s attorney, Rick Moorefield, knew about the lack of notification back then, but failed to tell commissioners on the Finance Committee, which also serves as the county’s Audit Committee, because he thought the Health Department had made corrections and the patients were being notified on time.

The Health Department said all of the patients have now been notified. Seven pap smear patients were notified beyond the 90-day notification period set up by the state and one mammogram patient was notified beyond the 60-day notification period.

"I was glad to see that the number was low, but we clearly need to do a better job in notifying patients. It's really important that they get the information that they need," Wilson said.

Experts say that while an abnormal pap smear doesn't mean a patient has cancer, an earlier warning means better odds of a successful outcome if treatment is needed.

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