An elderly man suffocated to death after two pieces of gauze blocked a tracheotomy - or makeshift airway - at the base of his throat, an inquest heard yesterday. Non-medically-trained staff at Kwong On Nursing Centre in Aberdeen had placed the gauze over the tracheotomy of Yip Wu, 72, to absorb sputum, the court was told. But Yip died of suffocation due to the blockage in his respiratory tract on March 18 last year. The incident led Ho Chiu-yuen, Kwong On's officer in charge, to accuse the Social Welfare Department of forcing the old age home to accept the man as a patient. He said Yip had needed special medical attention and the home had not been equipped to care for him. The jury returned a verdict of accidental death yesterday but recommended the department seek a doctor's advice before transferring people to old age homes. The inquest heard Yip had developed throat cancer in 1989 and had a laryngectomy and tracheotomy operation, leaving an airway hole at the base of his throat for breathing. He later developed senile dementia and Parkinson's disease. Yip's widow, Lau Yuet-sheung, said she was too old to take care of her husband and had moved him to Kwong On in June 1999. She provided gauze for the centre's staff to keep the airway clean, the court heard. Centre worker Fung Yim-ching said she was taught by her colleagues to cover a small part of the hole with two folded pieces of gauze for absorbing sputum. Ms Fung, who joined Kwong On last August shortly after arriving from the mainland, admitted she had received no formal medical training and had not known that it was dangerous to cover the airway with gauze.