Police urge inquest into rabies death

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2000, 12:00am

Police investigating Hong Kong's first rabies death in a decade are urging the Coroner to hold an inquest into doctors' handling of the case, a source close to the inquiry said yesterday.

An eight-month inquiry into Cristina Solano's agonising death has been completed and a file on the case will go to the Coroner this week.

Police are understood to have taken statements from 16 doctors who had contact with Solano in the weeks between her being bitten by a dog in the Philippines and her death in Princess Margaret Hospital on July 14 last year.

Solano was given a tetanus injection at Tuen Mun Hospital and sent home.

She was taken back in an ambulance the next day and treatment for rabies began, but she died four days later after developing a terror of water, suffering near-constant vomiting and being driven to bash her head against a wall.

A police source said it was not clear at what stage medical intervention might have saved her life, but the level of care she received needed further attention.

'The window for incubation of rabies can range from six days to a year,' the source said.

'The medical people are flame-proof because it's very much a subjective diagnosis.

'Had she been shot full of anti-rabies drugs on her first visit to the private doctor, she would have lived.

'The problem is that while the mother maintains that the doctor was told about the dog bite, the doctor disagrees. It's 'he said, she said'.' Solano, a domestic helper, was 22 and married with a two-year-old daughter.

She was accompanied by her mother, also a helper in Hong Kong, when she visited two private doctors and Tuen Mun Hospital, none of whom initially diagnosed rabies.

'I think she was [beyond saving] when she got to Tuen Mun Hospital but she possibly wasn't given the standard of care she should have,' the source said.

'Whether she was pushed from pillar to post is an issue that will have to come out in the inquest.' The Medical Council, which has the power to discipline negligent doctors, is also investigating Solano's death and has been waiting for the police report to help its inquiry.

Solano was transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital the day before she died.

Supporters of her family were cheered yesterday to hear that an inquest was being recommended. Cynthia Tellez, director of Mission for Filipino Migrant Workers, said: 'That's very good news.

'Unless they hold an inquest then we can't go any further.

'We want to know what really happened, prevent it from happening again and inform others what they should do in that sort of situation.'