Health officials want to know why it took so long to let patients and visitors know about its suspected Sars cases Hong Kong's first private hospital to suffer a small-scale Sars outbreak has been ordered to explain why it failed to alert patients and their families when staff began to suspect cases. Director of Health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun said the Baptist Hospital had to provide a detailed explanation of why it waited until the patients, who were transferred to public hospitals, had been confirmed as having Sars before making an announcement. 'The right of patients and their families to know should be respected,' she said. 'Hospitals have the responsibility to explain to them what is happening during their stay.' Dr Chan said the Baptist Hospital had already submitted a report, which the Health Department had found unsatisfactory, and had therefore requested a 'more thorough explanation'. The development came as the hospital's chief executive, Tsang Chin-wah, admitted on a radio talkback show yesterday that he should have acted sooner over the outbreak. 'The lesson we learned is that once we suspect there's a case [of Sars] we should make it known,' Dr Tsang said. 'It's a big problem if we wait until the cases have been confirmed.' The Department of Health announced the 'mini-outbreak' of Sars, involving eight people, in the Kowloon Tong hospital on Tuesday. They included two nurses and four patients from the ninth floor, and two nurses from other floors. The spread is believed to have started with a patient admitted to the ninth floor on April 20 for a kidney infection. Doctors detected a fever and transferred the patient the following day to Yan Chai Hospital as a suspected Sars case. The Baptist Hospital does not treat Sars patients. A nurse working on the ninth floor fell ill the following week, about the same time Dr Tsang was informed that the earlier patient was likely to have contracted Sars. He stopped new patients from going to the ninth floor, but still allowed visitors into the wards. Dr Tsang told attending physicians on the ninth floor about the suspected cases on April 30, and patients were told a few days later, once the early cases had been confirmed. On Tuesday, the hospital went public with the news, becoming the first private hospital to announce an outbreak. A spokesman for the Patients' Rights Association, Tim Pang Hung-cheong, said he was disappointed the announcement had taken so long. 'This doesn't help to control the spread of the disease, because public health depends on the public being able to take precautionary measures.' One patient who stayed on the ninth floor said she was upset with the hospital, as her husband had been allowed to visit her without knowing about his risk of contracting Sars. She is one of three patients who approached Dr Tsang after hearing rumours about the hospital having Sars cases. The Department of Health told private hospitals in late March to report suspected cases of Sars once they had been detected. Monica Wong Man-ha, the department's principal medical and health officer, said: 'All along we've required private hospitals to immediately report all suspected cases of Sars to us. We'll continue to push them to do so.'