Hong Kong hospital that treated liver recipient violated protocol in reporting medical blunder late, lawmakers claim
With investigation under way, Hospital Authority also slammed over how it handled ‘extremely regretful’ incident
A Hong Kong public hospital has violated protocol in reporting a serious medical blunder after it was revealed how lapses by two doctors led to a mother’s failing health, a patients’ group and several lawmakers said on Tuesday.
They lashed out against United Christian Hospital for “covering up” the incident involving Tang Kwai-sze, 43, who developed acute liver failure and later required two urgent transplants to save her life.
The blunder was discovered by the hospital in Kwun Tong on April 6 after a review of Tang’s medical record, but the matter was not made public until Tuesday – over a month later.
The hospital also failed to inform the patient’s family until April 19 when Tang’s teenage daughter Michelle demanded an explanation of her mother’s sudden liver condition.
The Society for Community Organisation said in a statement that it found the incident “extremely regretful”.
“The Hospital Authority did not do enough risk management and failed to prevent similar incidents from happening again.”
As a medical blunder precipitated Tang’s plea for an organ donation, the group also worried organ donations could be affected.
Hong Kong Patients’ Voices questioned whether the hospital attempted to cover up the incident.
The group urged the authority to add resources and manpower to ensure its services were adequate.
Lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki said the long delay in making the mishap public was unacceptable.
“It’s a violation of hospital protocol not to report such serious events within 24 hours of detection,” said Kwok, a doctor by profession. “The authority’s high-level staff should bear responsibility for this blunder.”
Lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan asked whether Tang’s ordeal would have been revealed were it not for “the public attention after her daughter’s emotional appeal for a liver donation”.
But United Christian Hospital CEO Dr Chui Tak-yi said the hospital had been in close contact with Tang’s family since April 19.
Michelle made clear she was not happy with how the hospital had handled the blunder.
“How about I return them a hundred apologies and they give me back a healthy mother?” she asked.
Under the hospital’s protocol, a hepatitis B sufferer such as Tang should be prescribed an anti-viral drug as precautionary treatment when issued a large dosage of steroids, in light of a risk of triggering liver failure.
Tang had been treated for kidney disease since July last year. A doctor at the hospital’s specialist outpatient clinic treated her with steroids on January 20 this year, without a prescription for the precautionary drug.
Another doctor reduced the steroids dosage on February 17, but also did not give the anti-viral drug.
Tang was admitted to the hospital’s medical ward on April 1 through the emergency department after showing signs of bleeding and jaundice. She was transferred to Queen Mary Hospital on April 5, and needed a new liver to be transplanted to save her life.
On April 6, United Christian reviewed Tang’s medical records and found negligence by the two doctors. But Tang’s family was not informed until April 19, when they questioned the hospital about the liver condition.
The hospital reported the incident to the Hospital Authority’s head office on April 20, and had another meeting with Tang’s family the next day.
On Monday, the hospital formed a five-member panel to investigate the incident.