Patients of Charlottetown foot clinic told to get tested for HIV and hepatitis

Podiatrist Dr. John Johnson says he is 'very confident there is going to be no risk to the public and everything we have been doing has been safe for all Islanders.' (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC - image credit)
Podiatrist Dr. John Johnson says he is 'very confident there is going to be no risk to the public and everything we have been doing has been safe for all Islanders.' (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC - image credit)

Prince Edward Island's Chief Public Health Office is investigating what it calls a break in infection prevention measures at Johnson Podiatry.

The issues have been corrected, CPHO said in a news release Monday, but clients who went to the clinic from Jan. 1, 2022, until April 8, 2024, "may have undergone procedures in which equipment was improperly cleaned and/or disinfected/sterilized and/or re-used.". At the time, the clinic was located on Longworth Avenue in Charlottetown. It has since moved to Stratford.

Public health officials described the risk as very low, but they can't rule out people having been exposed to hepatitis C, hepatitis B, or HIV.

"I want to emphasize that no one is ill or has reported illness," said Dr. Heather Morrison, P.E.I.'s chief public health officer. "But of course, when there are concerns around infection prevention control, we want to make sure that people aren't sick."

The risk of infection is very low, says Dr. Heather Morrison. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

With blood-borne pathogens, she said, "You can have a virus and not always be sick."

The CPHO is recommending that clients of Johnson Podiatry during the affected dates have themselves tested if they had any procedure that caused a break or cut in the skin, including:

  • Injections into the skin of any kind.

  • Treatment for an ingrown nail.

  • Treatment for an ulcer.

  • Corn or callus removal surgery.

Clients who received non-invasive services, such as being fitted for orthotics, do not need to be tested, Morrison said.

Johnson Podiatry has recently moved to Stratford. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

The investigation comes after a complaint came in to P.E.I. Environmental Health Department.

"Upon inspections, it was found that proper cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilization was not being followed for equipment that was being re-used on clients," the CPHO said.

Co-owner insists processes safe

Dr. John Johnson, a podiatrist and co-owner of the foot clinic, said staff have always adhered to the highest standards of sterilization and hygiene.

"I'm very confident there is going to be no risk to the public and everything we have been doing has been safe for all Islanders," he said.

We've been following Atlantic Canada's guidelines for the past 40 years and there have been no reports of any possible transmissions throughout that time. — Dr. John Johnson

Johnson believes he was doing nothing wrong. He said he was told by one of the health officials who inspected the clinic that P.E.I. is implementing new guidelines from Ontario around the cleaning and sterilization of instruments.

"We've been following Atlantic Canada's guidelines for the past 40 years and there have been no reports of any possible transmissions throughout that time," he said.

"With these new guidelines coming into place, they do things a little differently in Ontario than we have been doing in Atlantic Canada, and that's where all this comes from."

The clinic has begun using single-use instruments even for procedures such as toenail trimming, Johnson says.
The clinic has begun using single-use instruments even for procedures such as toenail trimming, Johnson says.

The clinic has begun using single-use instruments even for procedures such as toenail trimming, Johnson says. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC)

Johnson said he now uses only single-use instruments: "If I use them to trim your nails, I have to throw them in the garbage after each use."

He said he supports that method, though buying single-use instruments bears an additional cost that will have to be passed on to his clients.

The CPHO says the P.E.I. guidelines were last updated in 2019.

How to contact CPHO

The CPHO is in the process of mailing notices to clients who received treatment at Johnson Podiatry.

Patients wanting to be tested for infection are being asked to contact the Chief Public Health Office by email or call 1-800-958-6400 to request a laboratory form. These forms are required for attending the scheduled clinics.

Health P.E.I. is offering two blood collection clinics at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for clients to be tested:.

  • June 27, 7:50 a.m. to 3 p.m.

  • June 28, 7:20 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Health P.E.I. said it is working on scheduling additional clinics in Summerside and at other sites.