Queen Mary Hospital has launched a probe into an incident in which a patient was allegedly left on an operating table for as long as three hours because a senior doctor supervising the operation was moonlighting in another hospital, Apple Daily reports.
A spokesman for the hospital declined to reveal details on the ground that an investigation is underway, but stressed its policy has always been to give top priority to patients and any unnecessary delay that may affect their safety will be seriously dealt with.
The patient in question was scheduled to receive a liver transplant on Oct. 13, with the organ taken from a patient who died at Prince of Wales Hospital earlier that day.
Dr. Tiffany Wong Cho-lam, a clinical assistant professor at the Department of Surgery of the University of Hong Kong, was the surgeon assigned to perform the operation.
He was assisted by a young doctor, with liver transplant expert Dr. Kelvin Ng Kwok-chai, who works part-time for the hospital, acting as supervisor.
According to sources, the liver recipient was put on the operating table at noon with his abdomen cut open, even though the liver was not taken out from the donor until 2 p.m.
As the recipient was waiting for the liver, Ng allegedly told the others in the operating room at 3:25 p.m. that he had to leave for a couple of hours and return at 5 p.m. to help with the operation without explaining why, a move that shocked other members of the team.
The liver arrived at the hospital at 3:30 p.m., but Ng did not return until 6:30 p.m. During the period, the patient was being monitored by nurses and an anesthesiologist.
Luckily the operation was successfully completed by 10 p.m. under Ng’s supervision and the patient was in stable condition.
But a member of the medical staff later wrote a letter to the hospital management, accusing Ng of putting the patient in great danger by deserting his post.
Ng had allegedly left to perform another operation at a private hospital, but it was unclear which one it was and how much Ng was paid for doing so.
Professor Lo Chung-mau, HKU chair professor of hepatobiliary surgery, admitted that the delay of the operation for three hours is not satisfactory but stressed the fact that Ng was only there to help and not to perform the operation. He also said the hospital was facing a shortage of doctors at that time because of two other liver operations.
Dr. Luk Che-chung, cluster chief executive of Hong Kong West of the Hospital Authority, said whether Ng deserted his post on that day, and whether he should be punished, could only be determined after the investigation is completed.
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