The family of an 83-year-old patient who died due to a medical blunder at Queen Mary Hospital has accused the institution of covering up mistakes of medics, after revealing two more errors which were previously unreported.
The allegation came after the heart-attack patient, surnamed Kay, died on May 30 when a nurse removed the catheter from his body while he was sitting in an armchair – a position that could lead to venous air embolism, a condition where gas blocks veins and which could be fatal – instead of when he was lying down.
An investigation report on the error was released in late July but Kay’s son and daughter-in-law, who did not reveal their names, claimed yesterday that facts had been covered up and they had not been told whether sufficient follow-up action was taken.
They said the hospital did not reveal the bone fracture nor the heart attack suffered by the older Kay, that were briefly mentioned in a press release on May 30 – which could also have been caused by staff mistakes.
“The three blunders could all be [the causes of Kay’s death],” his daughter-in-law said.
The family believed Kay, who could not walk well, was a high fall risk yet was admitted as a low fall risk by a hospital nurse when he was admitted on May 19 to receive a computed tomography scan.
On the basis of this, he was assigned to a ward room far from the nurse station and later fell, suffering a bone fracture and then undergoing surgery.
The nurse in the orthopaedic ward, where the patient stayed after the bone surgery, was also accused of wrongly prescribing two types of drugs that lowered Kay’s blood pressure.
“If the nurse wasn’t negligent and listened to our warning of my dad’s fall risk, he wouldn’t have fallen and wouldn’t have required surgery,” Kay’s son said. “And the doctor had already stopped my dad’s medications for high blood pressure; why did the nurse suddenly resume those for him?”
His wife said her father-in-law then suffered from heart failure after taking the drugs and was sent to the intensive care unit, where a catheter was inserted into his body for the delivery of medicine.
They requested that the hospital make an apology in front of the late Kay’s photo and the family, and reveal what follow-up action had been taken against the staff.
“Based on what principles would the hospital implement penalties? What penalty options are there?” Tim Pang Hung-cheong of Community Organisation, who has been assisting the family on this issue, said. The family made complaints against three doctors to the Medical Council, and would do the same for five nurses to the Nursing Council.
Hospital Authority chairman John Leong Chi-yan apologised to the family on a separate occasion yesterday, adding “we have standard procedures to handle the incident”. The professor said the hospital could arrange for relevant staff to meet the family to explain any follow-up action.
A hospital spokesman said it had sent out a second reply last Friday to the family – its first was in August – and that it would stay in close contact to provide help.