Thousands of French patients hit by clinic scare

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LILLE, France (Reuters), Jan 23 - The French health service is recalling thousands of patients who might have been wrongly diagnosed or infected at five substandard radiology clinics, the Health Ministry said in a statement.

Health experts said it was the largest such recall in France, adding the case had revealed severe failings in the health system.

Authorities closed the five clinics in the north of France last December after discovering a string of serious problems.

"Inspections showed major malfunctions, notably with regard to record-keeping and personnel qualification, and with respect to the rules of hygiene and equipment safety procedures," the ministry said in a statement.

Authorities will ask most of the 7,000 patients in question to be re-examined, ministry spokeswoman Geraldine Dalban-Moreynas said.

"The vast majority are patients who may have falsely received a clean bill of health after undergoing a mammogram or chest x-ray," she said.

But an undisclosed number of patients also ran the risk of infection following examinations with instruments that were not sterilized. French media said some of the patients might have contracted AIDS or hepatitis as a result of the sloppy care.

Wednesday's case followed a series of scandals last year over malfunctioning radiation machines used to treat brain cancer patients in a number of French hospitals.

France regularly tops international rankings for the effectiveness of its healthcare system, although some analysts say it is unsustainable given the country's aging population, and will need more private investment to survive.

Last Updated: 2008-01-23 12:00:30 -0400 (Reuters Health)

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