Patient Groups Voice Concerns following Accidents at Public Hospitals

Recent mechanical and structural accidents at public hospitals have sparked safety concerns, the latest one being at Hong Kong Children’s Hospital, where smoke emerged from two batteries at its backup electrical room on March 15 (Wednesday). The batteries were removed after inspection, and no one was injured. While this incident alone may not be much of a concern, this came after a series of similar or more serious accidents took place at other public hospitals.

On February 18, a surgical light in United Christian Hospital fell, injuring an anaesthesia assistant in the shoulder. Experts later found signs of metal fatigue in the screws fixing the light to the ceiling, adding that the problem could have been solved if checks had been conducted thoroughly. Two weeks later, an external cover from the track of a hoist for moving patients around collapsed at Tuen Mun Hospital.

People soon realised that safety issues in public hospitals should have been addressed much earlier. A photo from Instagram page ‘HA no secrets’ showing a spalling concrete which fell on an unoccupied patient bed in Castle Peak Hospital went viral online in early March. The Hospital Authority, commonly referred to as HA, confirmed that it happened in November last year when responding to media enquiries. It explained that water leakage resulted in the erosion of concrete.

While the public is blaming the authorities for not informing citizens about the incident, another video of a similar accident which happened in the nursing school of Queen Mary Hospital in June 2022 was shared by the same Instagram page. That was before several pieces of concrete fell from a consultation room in Kwai Chung Hospital’s paediatric and adolescent psychiatric unit on March 8 (Wednesday). Without explanation, the Instagram page closed down earlier this week.

A fallen piece of concrete in Castle Peak Hospital in November 2022. (Photo Credit: Instagram hanosecretshk)

On the same day, HA’s chief executive Dr. Tony Ko and director Dr. Ching Wai-kuen apologised for putting patients and medics at potential risk. It pledged to examine whether its contractor, Fujitac Construction & Engineering Consultants, which is responsible for the building maintenance and inspection of all 43 public hospitals in the city, breached any rules or standards. A designated committee chaired by surveyor Wan Man-yee was also set up to review and make recommendations regarding the recent accidents.

The Hospital Authority apologises for the accidents

Lawyer Alex Lam, chairperson of Hong Kong Patients’ Voices, is not satisfied with the Hospital Authority’s passiveness in revealing the accidents, stressing the severity of the one in Castle Peak Hospital.

“If there was a patient on the bed, it is very likely that he or she would be seriously injured, or even dead,” said Lam.

He questioned why the HA did not report the incident to the public, even after knowing that it happened.

“Dr. Ko explained that they did not reveal the incident since it was under investigation. But they told the public nothing about the investigation. So people will inevitably speculate if the government was concealing,”  he explained.

Alex Lam who chairs the HK Patients’ Voices urges the Hospital Authority to increase transparency in safety issues involving public hospitals. (Photo Credit: Isaac Lee)

Lam said Fujitac and the Hospital Authority should shoulder equal responsibility in these incidents, adding that the government should make it compulsory for the Hospital Authority to alert the public whenever the discovered any potential safety risks or accidents, no matter whether there were injuries or not.

Featured Image Credit: Instagram hanosecretshk

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