Inquest jury on suicide urges extra hospital staff

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 September, 2008, 12:00am

An inquest jury called on the Hospital Authority to increase manpower in public hospitals after a suicide note by a patient who jumped to his death at a hospital accused medical staff of ignoring his needs.

The five-member jury made that and other recommendations after reaching a verdict that Ho Man-sum, 50, who jumped six floors to his death at Princess Margaret Hospital on the night of August 6 last year, committed suicide. He left a note accusing doctors and nurses of ignoring his requests to replace a malfunctioning oxygen mask.

The jury called for the Hospital Authority to increase the number of medical workers on night shifts at public hospitals to accommodate the needs of patients who were seriously ill or had difficulty walking.

It also recommended that the authority ensure there was sufficient manpower at public hospitals to handle incidents.

The two-day hearing in the Coroner's Court was seeking to find out why Ho, who had no history of depression or mental illness, would choose to end his life on a day when his condition had stabilised. On the night of his death, he unplugged the tubes connecting him to the life support system, smashed a window and jumped. In yesterday's final submission, Ho's younger daughter, Ho Ka-wai, told coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu that her father was not suicidal.

She said he chose to use death in making his accusation, hoping to encourage the government to put more resources into public hospitals.

Earlier in the hearing, Miss Ho told the court her father - who suffered from asthma and a bone disease called avascular necrosis - had often complained about the oxygen mask during his stay in the hospital.

In the death note, which was submitted to court, Ho begged for a better oxygen mask and tranquillisers to ease his pain. It read: 'The old mask pumped lots of air into my nose, but this one has no air ... it was the mask. I kneel down and bow to you, I beg you ... please give me the green mask.'

However, the court heard from hospital staff that Ho's mask had already been changed several times although they had never spotted any fault in his breathing apparatus.

After hearing the jury's recommendations, Ho's emotional family members said outside the court that they felt comforted. 'Though we still doubt what the nurses said in court, and also we still don't have a real picture of what exactly happened on that night, nevertheless, his demand is at least being noted and given voice,' Ho's elder daughter, Ashley, said outside court. 'This is the only thing we want. We are not here to fight for anything.'

Nevertheless, the two daughters and Ho's siblings cried when they spoke of the incident.

'The attitude of the hospital staff was really rude,' said his younger daughter. 'They didn't express their condolences after the incident.'

A Hospital Authority spokeswoman stated that it noted the verdict and would study the recommendations in detail. The authority also expressed its deepest condolences to the family of the deceased.