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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Hong Kong hospital under investigation after suspected medical blunder leaves teen half-paralysed

Health minister Sophia Chan said there would be a full report of what happened at United Christian Hospital, which has previously been accused of other cases of negligence

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 March, 2018, 4:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 March, 2018, 10:30pm

Third-party experts will investigate a suspected medical blunder at United Christian Hospital that left a 15-year-old girl half-paralysed after one of her arteries was wrongly pierced during a medical procedure, Hong Kong’s health minister said on Sunday.

Commenting on the incident for the first time, Secretary for Food and Health Professor Sophia Chan Siu-chee said she was deeply concerned and that the Hospital Authority, which manages all public hospitals in the city, would provide all necessary help to the patient and her family, including counselling.

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Family members of the Form Four girl on Saturday accused medical staff of the Kwun Tung hospital of committing multiple errors when treating the girl for an inflammation of her spinal cord. They said they hoped the hospital would admit its liability.

The girl is now in intensive care at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and cannot stand or sit.

Asked by a reporter if United Christian Hospital had covered up its mistake, Chan did not respond to the question. She only said that the hospital had reported the incident to the Hospital Authority and third-party experts would now investigate what had happened.

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“[The investigation] is now underway,” Chan said. “During this period, the Hospital Authority, especially United Christian Hospital, will continue to communicate with family members, answer their questions and provide assistance. When the report is completed, the [authority] will inform the family and provide an explanation.”

The teenager first sought medical help from the hospital on October 31 last year for a headache, neck pain and weakness on the right side of her body. On November 9, she was confirmed to have acute transverse myelitis, an inflammation of her spinal cord.

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After steroids did nothing to improve her condition, doctors recommended doing plasmapheresis, a procedure to replace a patient’s blood plasma with plasma from a donor or a plasma substitute, on November 16.

During the procedure, a doctor from the hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit inserted a catheter into a vein in the girl’s neck, a step necessary for the procedure. The girl developed shock and blood accumulated in her chest.

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After conducting an X-ray, doctors assured the family that the patient’s artery was fine. But she was transferred to Queen Elizabeth Hospital on the same day for treatment of the accumulation of blood in her chest.

It was only there that doctors informed the family that the girl’s artery was damaged during the process of inserting the catheter into the vein. They also confirmed that the girl, who was unconscious at that time, suffered a stroke in a large area of her right brain.

Doctors warned she may never regain the use of her left arm and leg.

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Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who has been assisting the family, urged the hospital to apologise.

United Christian Hospital said it was upset about the incident but maintained that it had explained to the family that plasmapheresis was a high-risk medical procedure.

The same hospital had to apologise for serious medical blunders last year that caused a woman’s liver to fail. She ended up requiring two transplants, but later died.