Negligence denied in surgery on 77-year-old

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2011, 12:00am

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Doctors at a private hospital denied any negligence in surgery on a kidney patient who died six days later.

Suspecting an error had been made, the family of the 77-year-old woman, surnamed Cheung, had complained to the hospital that nurses did not call for doctors promptly during the critical period.

Cheung, who was chronically ill, was admitted to the Hong Kong Sanatorium & Hospital in late June for heart surgery, which was successful.

As she had weak kidneys, Cheung was undergoing haemodialysis, in which waste products in the kidney are removed through the blood. But early last month, her blood pressure could no longer sustain the process, and doctors recommended another therapy, called peritoneal dialysis.

For that type of dialysis, a small tube called a catheter must be inserted into the abdomen. That was done on July 9. Cheung died on July 15.

A Chinese newspaper reported yesterday that Cheung's daughters suspected a blunder in the insertion procedure. They said the surgery was delayed by between 30 minutes and an hour and that the nurses did not convey Cheung's 'urgent situation' to doctors after the procedure, so doctors did not come to see her until eight hours later.

The daughters, both registered nurses, said the hospital had charged a fee of HK$2 million.

'I spent money for better health care in a private hospital, but what we got is worse than in a public hospital,' one was quoted as saying.

But Dr Ho Kwok-kam, who inserted the catheter, said there was no negligence involved.

'The surgery was successful. Cheung was able to undergo peritoneal dialysis for five days,' he said.

He said if the insertion had not been done, Cheung would not have survived that long, as haemodialysis no longer worked on her.

Ho said the surgery itself lasted 30 minutes, but Cheung's transfer from the intensive care unit to the operating theatre took time, so the entire process lasted longer.

Deputy medical superintendent Dr Joseph Chan Woon-tong said a preliminary investigation by the hospital's management committee had found no problem. An internal review committee will investigate.

Chan said the HK$2 million included the fees for the heart surgery and the cost of Cheung being placed under intensive care afterwards.

The Health Department said it would look into the case.