Killer patient 'showed no violent signs'
Emily Tsang, Lo Wei and Clifford Lo
The health minister and Hospital Authority yesterday defended the doctor responsible for treating a psychiatric patient who later killed a security guard in Sheung Shui, saying no symptoms of violent behaviour were evident.
Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, the secretary for food and health, said: 'The doctor took 20 minutes to examine him, and I believe it should be enough time to notice if the patient had shown any mental problem.
'The patient did not show any symptoms that he was mentally disturbed ... only some coughing.
'I believe, at that stage, it would have been difficult for the doctor to draw the conclusion that he had a tendency towards violence.'
Chow added: 'Most psychiatric patients do not have any violent behaviour ... I would call this a tragedy which happened suddenly. It would have been impossible to prevent it.'
When the patient, 53, arrived at the North District Hospital he complained of coughing and difficulty breathing and was unable to sleep.
Three hours after he was discharged from the emergency ward, he killed Lee Kai-kwong, 57, in a frenzied chopper attack on the Choi Yuen Estate, Sheung Shui.
He had been correctly dealt with, and the doctor had performed a mental health assessment, the Hospital Authority said. A lawmaker raised concerns over whether the departments had failed to share information, as they were supposed to do under a care programme suggested in a report in 2010.
'If the departments had been sharing information, it could help to spot irregularities in patients,' said lawmaker Wong Sing-chi. 'But as far as I understand, such a system had not been running. Much of the information remained at the administration level without reaching frontline staff due to privacy concerns.'
But Chow said: 'The authority and welfare department have been following up on the patient. As he did not show any violent behaviour, he was not under a special care programme.'
In July 2010, a review committee's report suggested ways the government could strengthen the care of psychiatric patients in society after the killings of two neighbours by a man with a history of mental illness on the Kwai Shing East Estate.
They included a community treatment order, imposing mandatory non-hospital care on patients whose conditions are not severe enough for a court-imposed hospital order. The man, who was an outpatient of the North District Hospital, had his last consultation on January 3. Accident and emergency doctors will conduct psychiatric assessments and physical examinations according to a patient's condition.
In this case, the patient had a perfect attendance record in follow-up appointments and injections, and his next consultation was scheduled for February 7, the authority said.
The man, who is in the Kwai Chung mental hospital after he was found to be suffering from hallucinations, will face a murder charge in Fanling Court today, police say.