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Monument honours patients affected by breast cancer testing scandal

Newfoundland and Labrador's largest health authority unveiled a monument Monday that honours those affected by the province's botched breast cancer testing scandal.

Eastern Health said the sculpture, entitled Graces, features three life-sized women in pink granite seated on three extensions of a cross-shaped plinth, with one position purposefully empty to honour the loss and suffering experienced as a result of the testing errors.

"We had a vision to develop a monument that would capture and reflect the themes of hope, health and healing while promoting an overall sense of optimism, resilience and virtue," said Katherine Chubbs, Eastern Health's vice-president responsible for cancer care.

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"It is our hope that this monument will hold special meaning for breast cancer survivors and their families."

Artist James Smith of Madoc, Ont., designed the monument. He built the sculpture over an eight-month period at an estimated cost of $90,000.

"The monument will also serve as a reminder that, as an organization, we have learned from the events surrounding [the breast cancer testing errors] and have moved forward to provide safe, high-quality care to the people we serve," said Vickie Kaminski, the health authority's president and CEO.

Between 1997 and 2005, hundreds of Newfoundland women and men received incorrect breast cancer test results. The tests were considered important in determining the best course of treatment for breast cancer.

Mistaken results in 386 cases led to a public inquiry that identified major problems throughout the province's testing system.

The health board unveiled the memorial as it released an independent review saying it had followed all but one of the 39 recommendations made by the inquiry.

The study said the only recommendation not followed was to create a separate vice-president position for each regional health authority, but it adds that this addition is in the process of being implemented.

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The development of the monument and the study were part of a $17.5-million class-action lawsuit settlement with breast cancer patients.

"For our patients and their families, I want them to know that we have learned and we have changed," said Ms. Kaminski. "We will continue to work every day to earn your confidence."

The faulty test results in question were from hormone receptor tests, which play an important role in determining the most appropriate course of treatment for men and women with breast cancer.

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