Hong Kong’s public hospitals reported a record 49 incidents of “serious mistakes” in the year to September 2014, with many of the cases involving medical items left inside the patient’s body during surgery, Ming Pao Daily said, citing the Hospital Authority’s latest annual report.
It was the highest number of cases of severe blunders in the city’s public hospital system since records of such incidents were first compiled in 2008. The figure for 2012-13 was 26 and 34 in the fiscal year before that.
Twenty of the cases last year, or 40 percent, involved surgical items, including plastic tubes, syringes, metal parts of surgical instruments and gauzes, found to have been left inside patients after operations conducted on the brain, liver and other organs.
Most of the cases required additional procedures on the patients to retrieve the materials, the report said.
Dr. Rebecca Lam of the Patient Safety and Risk Management Department said medical blunders resulted mainly from the use of new medical instruments and the more complex nature of the operations.
The authority has required the practice of counting surgical instruments after each operation, and this has led to a drop in the number of such tools being left inside patients. However, many of the recent incidents involved broken parts of such tools.
In many cases, medical staff were not aware that an instrument had broken or parts of it were missing because of the variety and complexity of the medical tools that are now in use.
She said the problem must be addressed urgently to prevent similar mistakes.
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