06/28/2017 17:49 EDT | Updated 06/28/2017 17:49 EDT

Quebec Doctors Forget Ruler-Sized Blade Inside Patient

The 33-centimetre blade was left inside the patient after a hysterectomy.

Hospital Notre-Dame on Rue Sherbrooke Est is shown in Montreal in 2012.
Peter McCabe/Canadian Press
Hospital Notre-Dame on Rue Sherbrooke Est is shown in Montreal in 2012.

MONTREAL — Quebec's health minister is blaming human error after a medical instrument 33 centimetres long was forgotten inside a woman who had a hysterectomy at a Montreal hospital last March.

But Gaetan Barrette urged patients Wednesday to not lose confidence in the province's health system and the surgery performed in its operating rooms.

"There will never be zero mistakes and here you have a situation which proves there are never zero mistakes," he told reporters in Quebec City.

But Barrette pointed out there's a standard procedure that's followed when it comes to an operation.

"When the surgery starts, everything that's used is counted — everything — and at the end, there's another count to make sure nothing is left inside a patient," he said.

But in the operation involving Sylvie Dube, the team that did the checking "clearly made a mistake," he said.

Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press
Quebec Health Minister Gaetan Barrette responds to questions before entering a cabinet meeting on Feb. 28, 2017 at the legislature in Quebec City.

Dube told Radio-Canada she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last October and underwent chemotherapy over the winter before the March 14 hysterectomy.

Dube complained of pain the day after the operation — not in the abdomen but in a shoulder.

"It was like being stabbed with a knife," she said.

Her doctor and nurses at Notre-Dame Hospital told her it was normal a hysterectomy would cause pain elsewhere in her body.

She began taking anti-inflammatory medication but the pain increased.

It was like being stabbed with a knife.Sylvie Dube

Discouraged, she went to the hospital's emergency room on May 22 and had a scan that revealed a metal object in her body.

"They told me, 'We see a 30-centimetre metal plate in your stomach'," Dube said. "I said, 'I don't have a metal plate in my abdomen."

The medical report indicated a "flexible blade", 33 centimetres long, had been left inside her abdomen during her surgery in March.

The instrument was removed May 25.

"It's an unfortunate event and no one is happy with that, but it's impossible to have zero complications," Barrette said.

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