A nurse involved in a blunder at Shatin Hospital in which an 87-year-old patient was sent to a mortuary before being certified dead by a doctor has been temporarily suspended from work, the Hospital Authority said. The hospital’s chief executive apologised to the patient’s family on Thursday and said that ward staff had ensured the heart of the male patient had stopped beating and his blood pressure was no longer detectable before moving his body – even though the document confirming death had not been signed by a doctor. A brief history of Hong Kong’s medical blunders Dr Lee Koon-hung also admitted that overcrowded public hospitals could be a factor for the doctor not signing off on the certificate immediately. “There was a mistake in the handling procedures,” said Lee. “Wards have been congested during the flu season. Further investigation is needed to see if the body was handled earlier due to crowded spaces. “The doctor might be handling the needs of other patients and therefore could not immediately sign the death certificate,” Lee said. Since January, public hospitals have faced unprecedented demand from patients because of the flu season and the prolonged winter. Overcrowding began to ease only this month. An investigation team had been formed to probe the blunder, looking into why and how it happened, why an incident report was delayed and communication between medical staff, Lee said. Hospital management learned about the blunder almost a week after it happened, following media inquiries on Tuesday. The patient, who had been staying at the hospital since May last year, suffered a setback on March 30. His heart stopped beating at 10.55am and his blood pressure could no longer be detected. Blunders plague Hong Kong hospitals, again: Elderly patient dies from morphine overdose given by nurse His family and the patient’s doctor were notified, but the doctor did not immediately certify the death by signing on the patient’s record. However, a form for processing the body was issued by the ward, and the patient was sent to the mortuary at around noon. The doctor realised only at around 2pm that the death had not yet been certified, and immediately went back to the mortuary to sign the document. According to standard procedures, a patient must be certified dead by a doctor before being sent to the mortuary. Lee said the patient was being managed by a senior nurse at the time. Other nursing staff were also in the ward. Health minister Dr Ko Wing-man said the mistake could be serious as funeral arrangements could be affected. He ordered the authority to conduct a thorough investigation into both clinical and administrative procedures.