Leukaemia patient's hospital transfer caused his death, expert tells inquest

Coroner’s Court hears of ‘wasted time’ writing referral letter to transfer leukaemia sufferer

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 May, 2014, 1:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 November, 2015, 2:03pm

A leukaemia patient suffering from a fever and an infection should have been treated immediately on arrival at Queen Elizabeth Hospital instead of being allowed to transfer to another hospital where he died, the Coroner's Court heard yesterday.

The transfer of taxi driver Sung Hoi-chau, 51, from the Yau Ma Tei hospital to Kwai Chung's Princess Margaret Hospital had delayed his treatment, Professor Kwong Yok-lam told the court.

Kwong, chair of haematology at the University of Hong Kong, was speaking after the doctor who allowed the transfer at the request of Sung and his wife Lau Tung- mui, told how he had agonised over the decision. "I have been asking myself every day whether it was the right choice to let Mr Sung go," said Dr Martin Lau Che-ying, a resident specialist at Queen Elizabeth's accident and emergency ward at the time.

Lau said he had considered that if he forced Sung to stay when he preferred to be treated by his usual doctor, he might not trust the treatment. Kwong said Lau should have treated Sung immediately instead of "wasting time" writing a referral letter.

The court heard that Lau had been discharged from Princess Margaret Hospital on October 31, 2011, after treatment of an infection. The next day, he developed a fever and was sent by ambulance to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where a doctor saw him in the emergency ward at around 11am after an eight-minute wait.

But after he arrived at Princess Margaret in a taxi at around 11.30am, it took 40 minutes for a doctor to see him. Sung's wife Lau, a radiographer, said he had initially been able to walk but became tired and had to lie down.

He then lost consciousness after an X-ray. His condition deteriorated and he died despite efforts to resuscitate him.

The hearing continues before Coroner June Cheung Tin-ngan.