Accident victim's two-week wait for operation

A WOMAN who broke her leg two weeks ago in a traffic accident is today still waiting for an operation because of a backlog in surgery at Queen Mary Hospital.

The ordeal of Ms Natividad Bose, a 56-year-old Filipina maid, has prompted heavy criticism of services at Queen Mary, the teaching hospital of the University of Hongkong.

Last week, hospital chief executive Dr Vivian Wong admitted overcrowding was a problem in the orthopaedic wards but said she was looking at ways to reduce the waiting time.

''They are among our worst wards,'' she said.

Dr Wong would not say whether it was unusual for a patient to wait almost a fortnight for an operation. She said the waiting time was determined by the type of fracture and the patient's condition.

Ms Bose broke her right leg late on January 25 when the taxi she was travelling in was involved in an accident.

She was taken to Tang Shiu Kin hospital where she was X-rayed. By midnight, Ms Bose had been transferred to Queen Mary where a brain scan was conducted and an orthopaedic surgeon called to care for her.

Ms Bose was checked into the orthopaedic ward after having her leg suspended in traction and bones pinned.

Her employer Mr Saul Lockhart said it was ''100 per cent excellent care up to this very minute''.

But he was surprised to find that a backlog of operations meant that Ms Bose was unable to be operated on immediately.

Yesterday, she finally learned that she would be operated on tomorrow.

Mr Lockhart said he was further upset because Ms Bose was not the only one waiting and that the wards were ''grossly overcrowded'' with camp beds - ''those same camp beds Queen Mary pledged to discard''.

''Somewhere on the line there has been a miscalculation,'' he said. ''There must be some ratio between beds and operating rooms.'' Mr Lockhart said he was told by doctors there were 20 - and at times 30 - patients ahead of Ms Bose in the queue for the operating theatre.

He said the Hospital Authority should explain how ''this mess came about''.

Dr Wong said the overcrowding problem, which had long existed on the orthopaedic wards, should be solved by mid-June when hospital renovations were completed.

''By then, we will have an extra orthopaedic ward of about 20 beds and hopefully we can do away with camp beds,'' she said.

She said plans had also been made for some of Queen Mary's operations to be transferred to Tung Wah East Hospital soon.

Dr Wong said the backlog was in part due to the Chinese New Year holidays when the hospital only handled emergency operations.

She added that some patients had to wait for medical reasons and stressed that the health of patients would not be compromised.