The health minister says he will find out why expired surgical sutures were used on 239 patients at Queen Elizabeth Hospital last year, and see if there is a way to prevent it from happening again.
The hospital on Saturday admitted it used the sutures on heart patients between July and December, after the sutures had expired in June. Of the 239 patients, 33 later died, but the hospital said the deaths were unrelated to the use of the sutures.
A preliminary assessment by experts did not find any abnormal post-operative infection in any of the patients.
Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said yesterday that the Hospital Authority would look into whether there were "special causes" behind any of the 33 deaths following surgery.
He added that in public hospitals, expiry dates of medical products were monitored manually and it was difficult for busy staff to keep track of them.
"We'll talk to the Hospital Authority about whether there are any ways to help our colleagues," Ko said. "I hope that the review will find out how this happened and come up with ways to improve the system so that we can avoid this situation in the future."
The Yau Ma Tei hospital has apologised to the patients and the public. It is contacting all those affected to arrange check-ups. It has also asked a committee to investigate and submit a report in six to eight weeks.
The hospital said in a statement that it had consulted infection control experts who believed the risk of bacterial contamination from using expired sutures would depend on factors including storage conditions and whether the packaging had been sealed.