Missing patient leapt to death

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 April, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 April, 1997, 12:00am

A patient who went missing from his hospital bed was found sprawled dead on a podium almost 10 hours later, an inquest heard yesterday.

Dr John Kwok Ching-kwong, chief of the neurosurgical unit at Kwong Wah Hospital, Yau Ma Tei, said staff were preoccupied with six seriously ill patients on the night of August 23 last year.

Chan Kwok-wing, 53, was first noticed missing at 11 pm.

Dr Kwok said they were not worried at the time because he was a healthy and mobile patient expected to be discharged the following day.

Coroner Richard Day recorded a verdict of suicide.

He heard that Chan, a casual manual worker, was admitted to the hospital feeling dizzy, 10 days before his suicide.

Before jumping to his death, Chan had not complained of any serious discomfort or shown any signs of depression, Dr Kwok said.

Nurses last saw Chan - who had been recorded as mentally healthy - earlier that night after he requested painkillers for a headache.

Police were alerted next morning when staff noticed he had still not reappeared.

A woman called police from her home nearby to report that she could see a patient lying on the podium of the second floor.

Dr Kwok said protocol stipulated staff should look for a missing patient four hours following his or her disappearance. Patients were free to leave the ward for personal reasons, he said.

Mr Day agreed it was more important for nurses to look after six severely ill patients than to search for a healthy man who habitually left his bed and wandered around the hospital.

'It seems to me the hospital should not be criticised since Chan didn't exhibit any suicidal symptoms.'