After case of fake doctor, Hong Kong must review hospital security

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 April, 2015, 6:56am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 April, 2015, 5:36pm

The cloak of authority has a reassuring aura that serves the fantasies of people who masquerade under it. The ubiquitous white coat of hospital settings is no exception. A report that a man wearing one repeatedly posed as a doctor at a busy public hospital, visiting wards and even examining patients, has caused understandable disquiet about security and the safety of patients.

It was followed by the court appearance of a 24-year-old man charged with pretending to be a registered medical practitioner, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of three years in jail. He is now remanded in custody pending psychiatric reports on whether he is fit to make a plea. Without commenting on a case that remains before the court, circumstances outlined in court raise wider concerns about security measures at our hospitals.

The magistrate said that a man wearing a white gown and claiming to be a doctor asked to see a patient in the accident and emergency department at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong. The ward manager refused because his face was unfamiliar.

But, an hour later, the same man allegedly was spotted "conducting a medical check for a patient by placing a stethoscope on his chest".

Security was alerted. However, it was not until two days later, after the man was spotted at the hospital again, that security called police.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man has rightly undertaken to pursue the case with the Hospital Authority and ask it to investigate security loopholes at public hospitals. The reported circumstances warrant a full review of hospital security, and a sense of urgency. It is not only patient trust in the bona fides of medical personnel that is paramount. Their safety may also be at stake in the event of unauthorised access to sensitive areas that maintain essential hospital services such as power supply.