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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Hong Kong medical union launches petition against decision banning doctor for fatal blunder

Wang Keng-kao, 73, died after his only airway was blocked by gauze while undergoing treatment at Kowloon Hospital in 2011

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 9:02am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 9:01am

A doctors’ group has launched a petition against a Medical Council verdict, which banned a doctor from practising for six months over a blunder in which a 73-year-old patient died.

The Frontline Doctors’ Union launched the online petition on Thursday, a day after Dr Wong Cheuk-yi was ruled by the medical watchdog to be guilty of two charges of professional misconduct in a blunder concerning Wang Keng-kao. Wang died in Kowloon Hospital in November 2011 after his only airway was blocked by gauze.

On Wednesday, the council found Wong guilty of failing to take proper steps to prevent Wang’s permanent tracheostoma - an opening in his windpipe - being treated or managed as a temporary tracheostomy wound. He was also found guilty of failing to alert or instruct nursing or other medical staff that the wound was a permanent tracheostoma, and not a temporary tracheostomy.

[The Medical Council] has simply put the blame on individual doctors and let doctors bear responsibility that is beyond their ability
Frontline Doctors’ Union

The union stated in its petition that it was “angry” with the council’s verdict. It also said the council had made its verdicts “under the threat of public opinion” and was “unable to maintain professional judgment”.

“The Medical Council has neglected [doctors’] working environment and limitations during the inquiry,” the union stated. “It has simply put the blame on individual doctors and let doctors bear the responsibility that is beyond their ability.”

Hong Kong doctor Wong Cheuk-yi faces disciplinary panel over death of cancer patient Wang Keng-kao in 2011

Dr Seamus Siu Yuk-leung, the union’s vice-chairman, said it was “debatable” that the council regarded a doctor of having committed professional misconduct if he or she failed to discover and correct a colleague’s wrongdoings.

“Doctors have to take care of so many patients. It is hard not to rely on the cooperation with other health care staff,” said Siu.

He said the council should also consider a doctor’s working environment when making a verdict in a disciplinary inquiry.

He said the petition has collected around 2,700 signatures in the first eight hours after it was launched.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association is also going to meet senior management of the Hospital Authority on Friday afternoon to raise their concerns about the case.

In the blunder concerned, Wong was responsible for the care of Wang in Kowloon Hospital from October to November 2011.

The patient received surgery at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, where a permanent tracheostoma was performed. He later suffered a stroke and was transferred to Kowloon Hospital for rehabilitation.

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Following Wang’s death, gauze was found covering the opening in his throat – the only channel through which he could breathe – and taped down at all four edges by nurses.

Three nurses involved in the same case were found guilty of professional misconduct by the Nursing Council in 2016, and were banned from practising for one month. Their nine colleagues were cleared.