Clinic mix-up staff may face action

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 December, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 December, 1997, 12:00am

Dispensary staff may face disciplinary action after 144 children were given doses of mouthwash instead of anti-fever syrup.

Parents whose babies and toddlers were mistakenly fed the liquid, containing the toxic chemical borax, yesterday accused the Health Department of running sub-standard clinics.

Director of Health Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said an investigation would determine whether staff should be disciplined.

'All the information was disclosed to the children's parents as well as the public as soon as we learned about the mistake,' she said.

Fourteen children were taken to the Cheung Sha Wan Jockey Club Clinic for check-ups yesterday after being issued with the 'medicine' between November 17 and 25.

Doctors said nine had been victims of the foul-up and one needed further treatment.

The senior medical officer of the department's family health service, Dr Marina Sum Shuk-kei, said the unnamed child was suffering diarrhoea and needed to see a specialist.

'The referral to a paediatrician was taken as a precautionary measure,' Dr Sum said.

The uncle of one of the victims, 18-month-old Cheung Kar-hei, said the family was considering suing.

'The clinic doctors took back all the medicine. We should have kept a small sample in case we decide to take legal action,' he said.

'I hope they will never repeat such mistakes. We usually see private doctors because public clinics are just not very good.' A paediatrician said mouthwash containing borax could affect the intestine and cause vomiting and diarrhoea, but would have no long-term effects.

Kar-hei suffered a high fever, vomiting and stomach pains after drinking more than half of the 60-millilitre bottle following his vaccination on November 20. He recovered and appeared healthy yesterday, his mother said.

Another couple, surnamed Chan, said their two-month-old daughter, Yan-yan, also dosed to prevent post-vaccination fever, deserved better medical treatment.

An untrained dispensary assistant was believed to have been responsible for the mix-up and supervisors could also be held responsible, a source said.

Secretary for Health and Welfare Katherine Fok Lo Shiu-ching said training for dispensary staff, as well as drug labelling and distribution, needed to be reviewed.

'We need to strengthen these areas. The most important thing is for staff to be more careful in discharging their duties,' she said.