Hospital under fire over alleged assault

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 June, 2008, 12:00am

Police not told of doctor incident

Members of the medical profession and a patients rights group criticised the Adventist Hospital yesterday for failing to inform health authorities and the police of an alleged assault at the hospital.

Obstetrician Sally Ferguson was suspended by the hospital for allegedly assaulting a pharmacy dispenser on May 21. But Dr Ferguson said she had only pushed the dispenser's shoulder about three times. She said a meeting about the suspension was scheduled for next week.

The Adventist Hospital did not report the incident to the Department of Health, or the police. The hospital declined to comment. A law firm representing the hospital said: 'We are investigating this matter with our client and we regret that, until we have done so, neither we nor our client are in a position to make any comment.'

Director of Health Lam Ping-yan said yesterday it was 'common sense' that the hospital should have reported the incident to police.

Dr Lam said that under the existing incident reporting system, private hospitals were obliged to report blunders and incidents that endangered patients to his department.

'The Department of Health is not in a position to investigate an alleged assault case, which could be criminal. Our role is to make sure no patient safety is involved in the incident. So far we do not see any patient is involved,' Dr Lam said.

A medical source said the hospital's failure to report the case to the health authorities was disappointing.

'It is obviously a behind-closed-doors operation. The reporting system is being interpreted narrowly, that it covers only medical incidents in the care of patients,' the source said. 'If a doctor is not acting professionally, the Department of Health also needs to know. It will then be up to the department what action it can take.'

Patients Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said hospitals should report on doctors' conduct to the Medical Council. 'As a medical services provider, the hospitals have the obligation to safeguard the quality of services. It is not only about medical standards, but also the conduct of its doctors, especially if the doctor's conduct may put patients at risk,' he said.

Medical Association president Choi Kin said the Medical Council would not deal with alleged criminal offences involving doctors. 'The hospital can report that to the police for an investigation. If there is a court conviction, the council will look into the matter,' he said.

Private Hospitals Association former president and Hong Kong Sanatorium medical superintendent Walton Li Wai-tat said a pact among 12 private hospitals required sharing of information if a doctor was suspended for medical incompetence.

Dr Li said individual hospitals had their own mechanism to deal with complaints and doctors' conduct.