Ambulance officers misinterpreted a delirious patient's gestures as a refusal of help and were too inflexible in handling the case, a coroner said yesterday. The angry family of Gigo Ranson Kwok Pui-man, 35, said the officers refused to take Kwok, who had been suffering from a fever for several days, to hospital because he had been waving his hands. The ambulancemen interpreted the gestures as a refusal of help. Kwok died in hospital a few days later. Ambulance officer Hung Hok-lin told Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu he thought Kwok was being unco-operative and was refusing help. Mr Hung said he told the family that officers could not force a patient to go to hospital. The dead man's sister, Kwok Sau-chun, said the family had been so angered by the officers' response that they cancelled the ambulance and took him to hospital themselves. They eventually got him to hospital in a taxi and private car. At the hospital, Kwok was confirmed to have viral meningitis, a serious brain disease. Kwok, a long-time drug abuser, died from the infection four days later, on August 1 last year. The Fire Services Department sent two ambulances to pick up Kwok after receiving emergency calls from his family, the court was told. Mr Hung said that on arrival, officers had found Kwok conscious and waving his hands, although he made no verbal reply to questions. Dr Chow Wai-kong, of United Christian Hospital, said Kwok was delirious and had no power of comprehension when he arrived at the hospital. 'He was unable, rather than unwilling, to co-operate with the medical staff,' he said. Dr Chow said that to decide if a patient was fully conscious, medical staff should check the patient's pupils and make sure they could respond verbally. But he said the delay in getting Kwok to hospital had no significant bearing on the final result. Mr Hung told the court he did not check the patient's pupils but said he had eye contact with him and found him fully conscious. He said he also spent five seconds checking Kwok's pulse and breathing. 'If the patient doesn't want to go to hospital, we can't force him,' Mr Hung said. 'According to our regulations, without clear instruction from the patient, we can't take him to hospital,' he told the Coroner's Court. Mr Chan, who recorded a verdict of death by natural causes, said the ambulance officers had been too rigid and should not stick to rules without regard for the circumstances. 'I believe the staff were willing to help but they were too stubborn,' he said. 'They took some arbitrary gestures from a delirious patient as an instruction of not sending the patient to hospital.' Mr Chan made a recommendation to the Fire Services Department ambulance services. 'When the patient cannot give clear instructions, ambulance staff should listen to the patient's family,' he said. Fire Services Department superintendent John Yeung said after the hearing that the department already had clear instructions on ambulance services. However, he said he would consider Mr Chan's recommendation.