Tuen Mun Hospital medical mistake affected 9,400 patients

July 23, 2015 09:45
Dr. Tony Ko (inset) says the mistake would have little impact on the treatment of patients at Tuen Mun Hospital. Photos: Ta Kung Pao

Tuen Mun Hospital has reported a medical error that affected more than 9,400 patients, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Thursday.

The hospital’s department of pathology wrongly calibrated an instrument for liver enzyme analysis, swapping the reference readings for male and female patients over 60 years old, it said.

Of the patients involved, 1,425 have since died.

Dr. Tony Ko Pat-sing, the Hospital Authority's cluster chief executive for New Territories West, said a mistake in the reference count would have little impact on the treatment of patients, and there was no evidence that any patient's death was related to the error.

However, to ease patients’ worries, Tuen Mun Hospital will review the data of 4,634 male patients, Ko said.

More than 1,000 of them had been contacted, and 236 have been asked to have their blood tested or to attend a further consultation with doctors, he said.

As regards the 1,425 deaths, after careful scrutiny of 400 patients’ records, no specific evidence emerged showing their deaths were related to the error, Ko said.

Doctors usually refer to the overall data and not a single measurement, he said.

Some of the patients died of chronic heart failure, Ko said.

The liver enzyme measurement is not the only indicator of how well the liver functions, an RTHK report quoted Professor Henry Chan Lik-yuen, director of the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for Liver Health, as saying. 

Doctors usually make clinical judgments after referring to many other data, he said.

Chan said the error is regrettable but he believes that it had nothing to do with the patients’ deaths. 

Tsang Kin-ping, chairman of the Alliance for Patients' Mutual Help, said it is unacceptable for Tuen Mun Hospital to have wrong reference readings, and it has caused a crisis of confidence in public hospital services.

Alice Mak Mei-kue, lawmaker for the New Territories West constituency, said the Legislative Council's panel on health services should follow up.

Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man apologized and ordered the Hospital Authority to investigate the case.

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