A piece of gauze the size of a pocket tissue was found in the bronchial tubes of a 73-year-old man following surgery for throat cancer, an inquest heard yesterday.
Wang Keng-kao died in Kowloon Hospital on November 14, 2011, after he was transferred there following cancer surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in June.
Wang, who was born in Fujian province, received infirmary services at Kowloon Hospital after his surgery.
At Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a hole 2cm in diameter was made in his trachea to allow him to breathe after the surgery.
The hospital's pathologist, Dr Cheuk Wah, told the Coroner's Court yesterday that a 252 sq cm piece of gauze was found blocking Wang's bronchi during the autopsy. Cheuk said the blockage could lead to death within a few minutes.
Wang's son, Brian Wang Ping-wan, also told the inquest that when he went to the hospital on November 6, he discovered the opening in his father's neck was covered by a piece of gauze that was secured with tape on all four sides.
But Queen Elizabeth Hospital's consultant surgeon, Dr Donald Tang Lap-chiu, said in court yesterday that the hole should not have been covered, as it was the only channel through which Wang could breathe.
Brian Wang returned to the hospital on November 13 for what would be his final visit with his father. He found the gauze was still blocking the hole and asked nurses why, he said.
"I thought it was problematic," the man said. "But the nurses told me they had no idea and had to ask the doctors."
Three Kowloon Hospital nurses who took care of Wang at the time testified that they had changed the man's gauze several times before his death, as it was soaked with phlegm.
When Brian Wang asked why the gauze was secured with tape on all four sides, nurse Chu Wan-wing said he thought that Wang could have used his nose to breathe.
"It isn't a medical blunder. It's murder … or manslaughter," said Wang's wife after the nurses' testimony.
"We had reminded [the medical staff] many times that [covering the hole with gauze] was problematic."
The three-day inquest continues on Monday before Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu.