Doctor probed for errors in 118 patients reports, failing to spot cancer

Errors by United Christian Hospital pathologist led to 17 people receiving the wrong treatment

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 5:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 August, 2014, 4:27pm

United Christian Hospital is investigating the work of a pathologist who made mistakes in the health reports of 118 patients, leading to the wrong treatment of 17 of them.

The doctor, who obtained her specialist qualification last year, had erred in writing many pathology reports, the public hospital announced yesterday.

The mistakes included failing to detect cancer cells and confusing medical terms.

The hospital said the errors did not pose a significant health risk to the people involved, but two female patients had been more seriously affected than the others, and they had already been contacted about the doctor's mistakes.

The hospital said yesterday that it was in the process of notifying the other affected patients from various specialties including surgery and obstetrics.

In the most serious incidents, the doctor had incorrectly interpreted the tissue sample of a female patient who had lumps in her breast as fibroadenoma - a benign tumour - when it was actually breast cancer.

Another female patient who was having irregular menstrual periods was mistakenly said to have an inflammation in her uterus. It was later found that she was suffering from a condition that could cause cancer.

"We feel that this is a serious incident," Dr Leung Chung-ying, consultant pathologist at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong, said.

"Errors were found in over 100 health reports handled by the same doctor."

The announcement of the investigation of the doctor's work was made after the hospital conducted a comprehensive review of all 2,153 reports issued independently by her from October last year to May, when the pathology department identified three inaccuracies in a routine review.

Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong described the errors as serious and that they could endanger patients.

He urged the hospital to enhance its regular reviews of pathology reports.

The unnamed doctor is on leave until November after the department suspended her from issuing reports.

Leung and the chief executive of the Kowloon East group of hospitals, Dr Chui Tak-yi, bowed and apologised to the affected patients and their relatives.

Chui said an independent expert panel would submit a report in eight weeks on whether the doctor's performance had fallen below professional standards.

The hospital would then decide whether she should be penalised or be required to receive further training. Leung stressed that the doctor had obtained the necessary qualification after six years of specialist training.