Worst Hong Kong hospitals identified in new report on surgery performance

Caritas Medical Centre bottom of list with highest ratio of unexpected deaths

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 7:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 7:02am

Caritas Medical Centre’s surgical performance was the worst of any public hospital, according to the latest citywide assessment, with the highest ratio of unexpected deaths.

The Hospital Authority found it had a ratio of actual deaths to expected deaths of 1.97706 for scheduled operations – meaning the fatality rate within 30 days of surgery was almost double the expected rate. During the assessed period, eight people in the Sham Shui Po hospital died after surgery.

The report covered major operations performed in 17 public hospitals between July 1, 2015 to June 30. The overall crude fatality ratio continued to drop from 2.9 per cent in 2008/2009, when the first study was done, to 1.5 per cent in 2015/2016.

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Professor Paul Lai Bo-san, director of the authority’s surgical outcomes monitoring and improvement programme, said the problem at Caritas could be caused by various factors.

“Lack of nursing staff was one of the reasons ... statistically it was related to the higher fatalities,” Lai said.

While Tuen Mun Hospital was ranked the worst performer for scheduled operations for a second consecutive year, it improved for emergency operations.

The best performer for scheduled operations was Tung Wah Hospital in Sheung Wan.

Lai said Tuen Mun’s performance could be attributed to higher demand for emergency operations, leading to postponement or cancellation of non-urgent operations.

“Patients’ conditions might change while waiting [for surgery], and possibly lead to a higher death rate,” he said.

Lai added that the problem of overcrowded wards at Tuen Mun Hospital remained severe as it had a huge number of patients.

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Pok Oi Hospital in Yuen Long, which began emergency surgical services late last year, would take over some surgical cases from Tuen Mun Hospital, which is expanding its operating theatre block to ease the burden.

Dr So Wing-yee, the authority’s chief manager on quality and standards, said support from senior doctors and nurses, such as frequency of ward visits, would be strengthened at Caritas to improve its services.

Caritas Medical Centre said in a statement that it was aware of the report and would study the data in detail. A spokesman said patients suffering from multiple chronic diseases could have higher fatality rates after surgery. Manpower of senior doctors was also tighter last year as a consultant surgeon was on pre-retirement leave, it said.

Tuen Mun Hospital said it had hired extra staff to meet growing demand, while the second phase of the operating theatre expansion was expected to begin this year.