Council probes death of boy, 3, at private hospital

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 August, 2007, 12:00am
 

The medical council is investigating the death at Union Hospital of a boy, three, who died of a twisted intestine, allegedly after a doctor failed to conduct a proper examination.


A medical source familiar with the case said the parents took him to the private hospital in Sha Tin at around 11.30pm on July 29 last year because he was vomiting and had a stomach ache. The resident doctor diagnosed enterogastritis, prescribed medicine and sent him home.


But the boy did not get better and the symptoms persisted. His parents took him to the hospital again at about 1.30am and the same resident doctor arranged for him to be admitted but did not arrange any examinations, such as a blood test or scan.


The source said the doctor did not call the hospital's specialist in paediatrics because he thought the case could wait until the morning when the paediatrician did the ward round.


The boy's condition quickly deteriorated, he suffered from breathing difficulties two hours later and his heart failed at around 4am. The doctor called the paediatrician but the boy died at about 4.30am. He was found to have a midgut volvulus - an abnormal twisting of the intestine which causes obstruction.


'Doctors usually take re-admission cases more seriously,' the source said.


The hospital's deputy medical director, Ares Leung Kwok-ling, would not confirm the case but said a complaint against a doctor in a similar incident had been filed with the council. He said the hospital had a stringent reporting system for incidents and invited outside experts to see if appropriate care was given.


Paediatrics specialist Tse Hung-hing said an obstructed intestine was not rare and some of the symptoms were similar to enterogastritis.


'It is possible that a doctor without extensive experience might not suspect a patient is suffering from intestine congestion from the apparent symptoms only,' he said.


Dr Tse said a twisted intestine could block blood vessels, causing septicemia - blood poisoning - and death of intestinal tissue. If a patient is diagnosed in time, the doctor can untwist the intestine or cut away the dead part of the intestine. Otherwise, the patient may die.


Private Hospitals Association president Alan Lau Kwok-lam said private hospitals were regulated by the Department of Health. Major medical incidents would be reported to the department within 24 hours.


Patients' rights activist Tim Pang Hung-cheong said the department should regularly inform the public about the medical incidents.


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