Hospital denies blunder cover-up

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2011, 12:00am


Union Hospital denied concealing a blunder that stemmed from an in-vitro fertilisation procedure almost four months ago, but the health minister said it should have known about the incident.

The blunder, in which a patient underwent an egg-collection procedure in August, ended in the woman losing one of her ovaries.

The patient's private doctor booked facilities at the Tai Wai hospital and performed the egg-collection surgery on August 18. She rested for four hours and returned home without feeling unwell, the hospital's medical director, Dr Anthony Lee Kai-yiu, said.

The next morning she felt ill. Her condition deteriorated two days later and she sought treatment at Tuen Mun Hospital. Lee said the woman's severe abdominal pain did not start until her stay at Tuen Mun Hospital, which fell outside the 24-hour period for private hospitals to report mistakes. She had surgery to remove the ovary the same day and was discharged in early September.

The Health Department said the private hospital had delayed reporting the incident.

'The Department of Health received information from Union Hospital, showing that the patient was treated at Tuen Mun Hospital two days after the procedure, and the patient's family did notify Union Hospital,' Food and Health Secretary Dr York Chow Yat-ngok said. 'I believe the hospital should have known about the incident four months ago.'

The hospital should explain whether it had done adequate follow-up work. Any responsible hospital should investigate once it was notified of such incidents, he said.

The health chief also defended the decision to name the hospital, even though the department does not normally name private facilities suspected of major blunders. 'Union Hospital has concealed certain information and has delayed in reporting, so it is appropriate [to name the hospital],' Chow said, adding that only two hospitals in Hong Kong offered the procedure.

Dr Edward Loong Ping-leung, who performed the egg collection and confirmed he was still the director of the hospital's reproductive medicine centre, also said the hospital 'has known about the incident all along'. 'There was no problem over my part,' he added.

But Lee said the hospital did not know about the blunder until December 1.

'We did not know about the incident until the patient and her relatives made a complaint to us about the visiting doctor concerned. We immediately reported the incident the next day. There was never a delay,' Lee said.

He also said the doctor - whom he did not name - had made 'a serious mistake' in failing to notify the hospital about the complication. 'We are holding him responsible for withholding the information ... and if the investigation team finds malpractice in his case, we will remove his right to practise in our hospital'.

Lee also confirmed that the doctor offered his resignation in September for 'a personal reason he would not disclose'. The board members will decide whether to accept the resignation, based on the results of a hospital investigation team. The team's report will be available within a week, according to Lee.

Private Hospitals Association chairman Alan Lau Kwok-lam questioned the government's decision to name a hospital over a single complication. 'The government should not do so, unless the incident concerned involves a systemic error that could affect many patients,' Lau said.