Same-day discharge endangers patients, say critics

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 June, 2007, 12:00am

Queen Elizabeth Hospital has been dragged into a controversy over whether patients undergoing some heart procedures can be discharged on the same day.

The hospital, which has Hong Kong's biggest cardiology centre, introduced day surgery for some heart patients in 2003.

The hospital cardiology team also won the authority's Outstanding Team Award this year for the new service.

Instead of the conventional three-day stay at the hospital, patients can be discharged on the same day.

In previous media interviews the hospital said that day heart surgery had saved HK$5.6 million in 2003, HK$6.6 million in 2004 and HK$7.3 million in 2005.

The Hospital Authority conducted an audit of 18,618 heart procedures performed in public hospitals from 2003 to 2006.

It found that the overall 72-hour mortality rate was 0.6 per cent, an internationally acceptable level. But the day services have nevertheless been criticised by some cardiologists as endangering patient safety.

'I don't think it is safe to ask patients to go home on the same day after having the procedure,' one cardiologist said.

'The Hospital Authority is trying every means to cut costs and as a result, service quality and patients' safety are being compromised.'

He said some doctors were eager to present 'nice figures' to the top management. 'In order to cut costs, some are making efforts to reduce patients' stay and trying to do more and more operations every day. At the end of the day, patients suffer.'

But a senior Hospital Authority official said day surgery was a global trend that Hong Kong should follow.

'We note that a group of surgeons do not like day surgery, because it means they have to do more operations,' he said.

'If we can effectively cut down the hospital stays, it is good for both the authority and the patients. We can do more operations to cut waiting time and it will be more convenient for patients.'