Doctor punished for drugs blunder

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 June, 2005, 12:00am

GP gets a suspended sentence - and a tongue lashing - for litany of errors when dispensing medicine for baby boy

A doctor who mislabelled medicine for a baby boy received a suspended practice ban at a Medical Council hearing yesterday - and a flea in the ear from its chairwoman, who said the profession had been warned 'infinite times' of the need for clear labelling.

Young Hong-ming, a general practitioner for two years in Kowloon, said he had quit private practice following the incident because he felt he lacked the requisite experience.

Dr Young admitted failing to properly label medication prescribed to Kwok Tsun-hei in October 2003 for a fever, cough and chest infection.

The case follows the discovery that 152 patients in Wong Tai Sin seeking treatment for stomach problems were given a mislabelled diabetes drug. Four have died.

Dr Young's errors included putting only the character 'Hei' on the four medicines and the bag containing them instead of Tsun-hei's full name; not putting the dosage for the suppository Tiffy; labelling one bottle with only the initials of the medicine; and putting only the name Panadol on a bottle of syrup, although it also contained the analgesic Ponstan.

Dr Young said he failed to state the dosage for the suppositories because he did not realise the term covered not only a drug's strength but the frequency with which to take it. He also admitted he had no idea he had given both Panadol and Ponstan to Tsun-hei until he was shown the prescription he had written.

Tsun-hei's mother, Tang Suk-yi, testified that Dr Young had not told her to use Tiffy only when necessary, nor had he said the boy should not be given the oral syrup if he had taken Tiffy. The latter is normally prescribed as a substitute for oral fever drugs if the child patient refuses to take them.

The council decided to bar Dr Young from practising for three months but suspend the sentence for one year. He was cleared of a charge of disregarding his professional responsibilities by using multiple medications to treat fever.

The council's chairwoman, Felice Lieh Mak, said: 'We've been talking about clear labelling for more than 10 years now, but some people are still not listening. We have raised the issue in our newsletters infinite times.

'But although we can keep reminding them, it's up to doctors whether to do it ... Some doctors are reluctant to pick up new things and it's a problem. We don't have the ability and resources to act like police and conduct spot checks.'

Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said the best way to solve the problem was to stop doctors dispensing medicine.

'Right now we can only depend on patients to be careful and doctors to do everything they should [in order to avoid this happening again]. The best way to protect patients ... is to have the dispensaries separated from clinics.'