Alter dispensing rules for elderly, forum told

Homes for the elderly should be required to record what drugs are dispensed to residents, a forum was told yesterday, to avoid a recent blunder where nine people were involved in a diabetes scare.

A survey conducted by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists in 2002 found 70 per cent of carers at elderly homes did not keep dispensation records, according to the group's education director, William Chui Chun-ming. And carers at 60 per cent of homes had administered doses at their convenience.

Benjamin Kwong Yiu-sum, president of the Pharmaceutical Society, agreed that rules on record-keeping were needed. 'In case of mistakes, it is easier to check,' Mr Kwong told the City Forum, organised by RTHK.

But director of Social Welfare Paul Tang Kwok-wai, at a separate function, said monitoring was good, although carers needed better training.

Last week the Hospital Authority disclosed that the nine were among 23 people with no history of diabetes who had been admitted to hospital for low blood sugar levels, with at least one of the nine mistakenly receiving diabetes treatment.

To cut costs, many homes hire recently arrived migrants from the mainland as careers. But they have no knowledge about storing or dispensing drugs, and cannot understand English instructions on packaging, two leading pharmacists said last week, who also called for records to be kept.

Mr Tang said the government had recently raised the qualifications for carers, and those who repeatedly failed in their duties could be fired.