Hospital Authority rapped for public relations in Caritas death

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 January, 2009, 12:00am

The Hospital Authority was yesterday urged to improve its communication skills following its handling of the Caritas Medical Centre incident.

The president of the Public Doctors Association, Ho Pak-leung, said the initial press conference Caritas held on the incident, in which a man died waiting for treatment, was damaging.

In a briefing held the next day, the hospital's chief executive, Ma Hok-cheung, said the receptionist had complied with guidelines by asking the man's son to dial 999. The head of the accident and emergency department, Ng Fu, said the hospital had given its 'best care' to the man.

Dr Ma conceded in an investigation report released yesterday the impression conveyed was that the hospital management was 'bureaucratic, lacked sympathy [and was] indifferent to those asking for urgent help and protecting its staff'.

Dr Ho said: 'Overall, public communications by the authority in handling the medical incident was rather poor, and it is time it improves.'

He said the authority should also set up an accountability system for senior management.

'Frontline staff are always the ones who get blamed for mistakes. Sometimes they receive warning letters over patients' trivial complaints. The hospital chief executives, however, have never been punished for their poor management.'

Leung Ka-lau, the legislator for the medical sector, voiced doubts over whether the authority has a legal basis for punishing the Caritas staff.

'Strictly speaking, inadequately responding to an emergency that happens outside a hospital is a moral mistake, not related to staff employment at a public hospital.'

Tim Pang Hung-cheong, the spokesman for the Patients' Rights Association, said the investigation report was 'comprehensive and sensible.'

Fok Tai-fai, a member of the review committee announced yesterday to study disciplinary action against Caritas staff, said the committee would be fair and impartial in considering action.

A nurse at the hospital yesterday said staff morale had been seriously affected by the incident. 'Many of my colleagues have been very unhappy about this incident,' she said. 'No one wants to see tragedies like this.'

She said the receptionist should not be blamed. 'She is just an ordinary clerk who is not responsible for dealing with emergencies,' she said.

A patient at the hospital said the hospital's chief executive, Mr Ma, should resign. 'The top guy should be held responsible because everyone works according to his instructions,' she said.