Hospitals to get emergency plan

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 December, 2008, 12:00am

Officials respond to death outside Caritas

A new standard action plan will be introduced to guide public hospital staff on what to do in the case of an emergency near a hospital.

But the Hospital Authority chief yesterday asked staff to remember that their top priority was to save lives and that their response should be based on common sense, rather than following the procedures rigidly.

The new action plan, to be released as soon as next week, comes after a public outcry over Caritas Medical Centre's handling of a case on Saturday when a receptionist declined a man's plea to call doctors to treat his father who had collapsed outside the hospital doors.

At present, there are no standard guidelines covering all public hospitals, which draw up guidelines for their staff according to their needs.

The authority's quality and safety director, Leung Pak-yin, agreed yesterday it would have been more appropriate to alert the hospital's accident and emergency department directly when the patient was so close, rather than advise relatives to call 999, as the receptionist did.

Chief executive Shane Solomon said yesterday the Hospital Authority would draw up standard response procedures that would apply to all authority institutions to deal with situations within or in the vicinity of hospitals.

Among the main objectives was to work out an emergency response mechanism under which hospital staff would be trained on what to do when someone collapsed nearby.

'The emergency response will also include a control centre within the hospital with a designated number which all staff can ring when they encounter life-threatening situations,' Mr Solomon said.

If a patient cannot be immediately transferred to the accident and emergency department, the department must be informed and send a response team to the scene without delay.

If an ambulance was needed, staff should call it, not ask the patient or family to dial 999.

But Mr Solomon stressed that procedures had to be flexible. 'The response should be based on common sense, rather than bound by rigid guidelines,' he said, assuring the public that the authority had a clear responsibility to offer every assistance to patients when they were in the vicinity of a Hospital Authority institution.

'All along the authority's priority is to save lives and drop everything else when confronting a person in a life-threatening condition and offer all the help necessary,' he said.

Mr Solomon also denied press reports that there were guidelines requiring staff to call 999 even in emergencies within a hospital, or that hospital staff would not be covered by insurance if they responded to emergencies outside the hospital.

Public Doctors Association president Ho Pak-leung said that no matter how detailed the guidelines or principles were, they would be useless if staff did not use their common sense when applying them.

The head of the Caritas accident and emergency department, Ng Fu, said on Sunday there were no portable defibrillators in the hospital that could have been taken to the patient.

Mr Solomon said he would decide whether extra equipment might be needed after studying the Caritas report. But he said there should not be a staffing problem at accident and emergency departments, citing a 24 per cent increase in emergency posts in the past four years.