Hospitals chief defends Caritas staff member

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 September, 2009, 12:00am

The head of the Hospital Authority defended Caritas Medical Centre staff as having followed proper procedure in refusing to treat a seven-year-old boy with a serious eye injury and no proof of residency unless his family paid an upfront fee of HK$700.

Shane Solomon would not blame the staff member concerned, he said yesterday, but procedures might need to be adjusted to allow frontline staff greater flexibility.

Solomon understood why the child's parents were upset, but he said the circumstances of the case were unusual and the staff member had been following procedure.

'In this case, what the clerk was doing was to implement the policy ... I won't blame the staff,' he said. 'I do understand the parents' situation. I think it's very difficult ... Your eyes are very valuable.' Asked if he would review the procedures, he said: 'Probably, we have to give our frontline staff a bit more flexibility.'

In last Thursday's incident, the boy was left untreated for more than an hour. A Caritas clerk told his grandmother she had to provide proof the boy was a resident of the city or pay the HK$700 fee imposed on non-locals before he could be registered.

The grandmother could not afford the fee and phoned the boy's father to go back to their Tsing Yi home from Tuen Mun to pick up the boy's identification and take it to the Sham Shui Po hospital.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok expressed concern on Saturday and asked the authority for a report.

Last December, Caritas drew fierce criticism after a receptionist declined to help a man call for a doctor to treat his father who had collapsed outside the hospital doors.

The man was taken to the hospital's emergency room by an outside ambulance about 26 minutes later but was dead.