Drug errors at homes for elderly raise concerns

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 October, 2008, 12:00am

The health minister has expressed concern over drug dispensing safety at private homes for the elderly after 34 blunders, including three deaths, in recent years.

Speaking after attending a radio programme yesterday, York Chow Yat-ngok said health officials were very concerned about drug errors at old people's homes.

The Health Department and Social Welfare Department had set guidelines for staff, but some ignored the instructions.

'They might have their own systems and might not follow ours. We will try to gain a better understanding of what happened at certain elderly homes where drug dispensing blunders happened most, especially those that led to deaths,' he said.

Latest figures show that 51 suspected cases of drugs being wrongly dispensed at homes for the elderly were referred to the Social Welfare Department from August 2005 to last month. Thirty-four have been confirmed, with most caused by negligence. Staff members failing to follow guidelines when preparing drugs and cross-checking identities were also blamed for the errors.

Two men and one woman aged between 78 and 98 have died - two this year and one last year. The causes of death are still not known.

One of the homes where a death was reported has been prosecuted for failing to make improvements after a warning was issued.

A spokeswoman for the Food and Health Bureau said three training programmes on drug management were held this month.

The group Against Elderly Abuse of Hong Kong said it had received about 220 complaints in the past nine months.