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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Investigation launched after elderly Hong Kong patient commits suicide in hospital ward

Man who was found hanging from a pole next to his bed in Caritas Medical Centre a week ago died on Saturday afternoon

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 March, 2018, 10:49pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 March, 2018, 10:09am

A chronically ill man who was found hanging from a pole next to his bed at a Hong Kong public hospital a week ago died on Saturday afternoon.

Caritas Medical Centre in Sham Shui Po in Kowloon issued a statement late on Saturday night announcing “a sentinel event” – a term for blunders and untoward incidents in health care – and that the 78-year-old man “was suspected of committing suicide”.

The patient was found hanging from the lifting pole with a feeding bib in a ward at Caritas at around 2am on March 17.

A duty nurse released him from the pole and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation “immediately”, according to the hospital spokesman.

The patient’s heartbeat was restored after the resuscitation and he was transferred to the intensive care unit. The man was certified dead on Saturday afternoon. Police were informed on March 17.

The man was admitted to Caritas on March 8 due to a fever and right hip pain. He had hypertension, hyperlipidemia – high cholesterol – and impaired hearing.

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“The patient’s condition, as well as emotion, had been stable since admission,” a spokesman said.

The hospital said the patient “remained stable and no abnormality was observed” at around 1.30am on March 17 – 30 minutes before he was found hanging – when the duty nurse finished tending to other patients in his ward.

Caritas Medical Centre said the incident had been categorised as a sentinel event and reported to the Hospital Authority.

A panel will be set up to look into the case and give recommendations to prevent a recurrence.

The case has also been reported to the coroner.

The hospital said it was “very sad” about the incident and expressed condolences to the man’s family members. It promised to offer the family assistance.

From the last quarter of 2007 to the third quarter of 2017, there were a total of 144 cases of inpatient suicides, according to the Hospital Authority’s latest annual report on sentinel and serious untoward events.

Among the eight who committed suicide within a year prior to September 2017, two hung themselves, five jumped from height and one suffocated.

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In 2005, the Hong Kong Medical Journal, a publication of the Hong Kong Medical Association, published a retrospective study of patients who committed suicide or who attempted suicide in general wards at all general public hospitals between 2000 and 2002.

“Twenty-six hospitals reported a total of 166 suicidal acts, which included 34 completed suicides, corresponding to 9.46 attempted suicides and 1.93 completed suicides per 100 000 admissions. Most suicidal acts occurred in medical wards,” the authors said.

Patients were, on average, in their mid-50s, predominantly male, and had been admitted because of physical problems. Fewer than 20 per cent were admitted because of attempted suicide, the report said.

“A significant proportion of suicide attempters used potentially lethal suicide methods in the wards. Wide ranges of objects were used in the suicidal acts. Completed suicides tended to occur after midnight and in the ward toilet. Patients who went missing and then committed suicide acts did so in the first few hours of leaving the hospital. The timing of suicidal acts varied greatly with the reasons of admission,” it said.