Hospitals should own up to errors

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am

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I wish to discuss the recent increase in medical blunders. On October 4, a newborn baby was dropped at Baptist Hospital. But the baby wasn't seriously injured, so the hospital didn't regard it as a serious case, or report it.

Problems with blood transfusions and staff damaging a baby's arteries at other hospitals also made the headlines.

Many hospitals are unwilling to report these cases. When they are discovered by reporters, some hospitals even try to deny responsibility. How can the public trust hospitals?

The increased number of accidents may be the result of the influx of pregnant women from mainland China. Medical workers' have greater workloads and less sleep, so mistakes are easily made. There is also often a shortage of staff.

If accidents occur, hospitals should report the cases as soon as possible and give an explanation to the public, instead of finding ways to evade the responsibility.

Daiki Wong Kai-yee, St Antonius Girls' College

From the Editor

Thank you for your letter, Daiki. When we hear about mistakes in hospital, it is easy to be horrified. But let us put this into perspective. In Hong Kong, we have excellent healthcare. We have top doctors, the latest drugs and the best equipment.

In other countries every aspirin is precious. Patients bring their own bedclothes and food, and they are lucky if they even have a bed. This seems to lead people to believe that our hospitals are perfect, there will never be any mistakes, and of course, everyone's life will be saved.

Here is the fact: people make mistakes. It is true that the more tasks they have to deal with, the more likely people are to make mistakes. In the good old days, a medical professional had very few choices when treating a patient. The expectation of recovery was not very high. Today, doctors and nurses have to make thousands of decisions in patient care. It is inevitable that things will go wrong.

While the public certainly has the right to know if something goes wrong, it should develop an attitude of gratitude instead of a constant need for blame. Newspapers don't report every miracle, every healthy birth, every life saved. But we should still appreciate those successes.

Susan, Editor