Hospital failed to meet standards, inquest told

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2008, 12:00am

A chronically ill patient might not have died from pneumonia if a hospital had increased his oxygen supply before his heart and lungs shut down, a respiratory expert told an inquest yesterday.

Yip Ming-cheong, 33, died on May 25, 2006, five days after being admitted to Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Tai Po suffering from spasms.

Yu Wai-cho, consultant in respiratory medicine at Princess Margaret Hospital, who prepared a report on Yip's death, told the hearing the patient had suffered extensive pneumonia that led to respiratory failure.

He said Yip's heart and lungs had stopped functioning after he suffered prolonged hypoxaemia - low oxygen content in his blood.

Dr Yu said that although the patient had a history of pneumonia and had shown signs of lung infection after being admitted to hospital, doctors had not given him any antibiotics to treat a possible infection caused by the hypoxaemia.

'The hospital fell short of the reasonable standards expected of an acute medical service. Appropriate clinical management in the morning or early afternoon of the day he died might have prevented death,' Dr Yu told the inquest.

Yip began to experience hypoxaemia on May 24, when the oxygen content in his blood dropped below 90 per cent, compared with the normal level of 98 per cent.

The hypoxaemia was left untreated until the next morning although Dr Yu said it was 'very simple' to treat. He said the attending doctor should have increased the oxygen content of Yip's blood and then sought the reason for the oxygen shortage. However, that was not done; indeed, at one point, the doctor reduced Yip's oxygen supply.

Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu will hear submissions today, then direct a five-person jury before it retires to consider a verdict.