Inquiry to decide action against hospital staff An independent inquiry will be held to decide if any disciplinary action should be taken against Caritas Medical Centre staff blamed for a delay in attending to a heart attack victim who collapsed outside the hospital. The Hospital Authority yesterday received an investigation report from the hospital about the December 20 incident, which sparked a public outcry and prompted a series of public apologies by authority chiefs. The South China Morning Post has learned that the investigation report identifies major faults at at least three levels - the receptionist, the accident and emergency department nurses and the hospital management. The hospital's chief executive, Ma Hok-cheung, says in the report he is willing to take full responsibility. The authority will not make the report public until Monday. Its release has been delayed for a week. During the incident, the son of the heart attack victim ran to a receptionist at the Sham Shui Po hospital for help when his father collapsed outside. He was told to call 999. A surgeon who was passing by tried to resuscitate the man on the footpath and called the hospital's accident and emergency department for help. Nurses there did not inform a doctor but just sent a security guard. The man was taken to the emergency room 26 minutes after arriving at the hospital and was later certified dead. The report criticises the receptionist for not having the common sense to call an ambulance immediately. It also says the response of the emergency room nurses was inadequate as they failed to inform any doctor even though the man had collapsed in the vicinity of the hospital. Dr Ma, who initially said the receptionist had complied with hospital guidelines, admits there was unsatisfactory communication with the public after the incident. He apologises in the report for the 'anxiety and confusion' caused to the public. 'Being in the post for six months, I am answerable for the overall performance of the hospital,' he says. The authority will set up an inquiry panel - made up of independent authority board members - to decide on any 'human resources' action to be taken against the staff involved. 'Given the intense public attention to the case, the inquiry will be conducted by lay members of the authority,' an authority source said. Authority chief executive Shane Solomon said yesterday the authority would study the hospital's investigation findings in detail and would consider any necessary follow-up action. 'In view of public concerns over the incident, we have decided to publish the report in full to the general public next Monday after our thorough review,' he said. 'We would like to again express our deepest condolences and also to apologise for the confusion and anxiety to the family.' The authority understood that while Dr Ma had 'tried to protect his staff' by saying the receptionist had complied with guidelines, his comments were 'misleading' to the public. 'We are studying how responsibility should be shared between individual staff and the management. While the receptionist's response may have been inadequate, it could be part of cultural and management problems at the hospital,' another authority source said. The report will be submitted to the secretary for food and health and sent to the dead man's family on Monday. The man's son, Mr Yeung, who has decided to take legal action against the hospital, said he did not have high expectations of the hospital probe. He said the hospital had contacted him several times to offer help and referrals to social workers.