Hospital drug errors jump by six times

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 February, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 February, 1998, 12:00am

Incidents involving the wrong administration of drugs in public hospitals have jumped more than six times in the past three years.

A study shows the number of medication incidents soaring from 992 in the second quarter of 1994 to 6,046 in the third quarter last year.

Hospital Authority Deputy Director Dr Ko Wing-man said : 'Not many people are willing or used to report their own errors at the beginning.

'But staff are now more vigilant and ready to report their blunders voluntarily for quality improvement.' He added the numbers were stabilising at 5,000 to 6,000 or 0.1 per cent of total items dispensed for four consecutive quarters, compared with 0.2 per cent reported in the United States.

The authority has issued guidelines involving the use of intravenous lines or tubing.

'It's difficult to know how the tubes are connected especially when patients are covered by blankets. The new system will make them easier to identify,' he said.

The latest medication report showed that about 40 per cent of the incidents were due to staff's stress or job distractions, while non-compliance with official procedures represented 12 per cent.

Errors in prescribing accounted for about nearly 60 per cent while another 34 per cent were related to incomplete prescription forms.

But more than 95 per cent of incidents were detected before the drugs were taken. A total of 12 patients sustained injuries which were not permanent or life threatening.

Victims of food health scares such as the bird flu crisis could get massive payouts under consumer protection laws proposed. The changes would make it easier and less expensive for people injured by contaminated food to sue for compensation.

The Law Reform Commission's Audrey Eu Yuet-mee SC said the legislation should also help prevent crises by making retailers and producers more careful.