Tissues-in-throat death hits hospital

Local | Erin Chan 13 May 2021

An elderly man died after eight balls of tissue paper were found in his throat while he was being treated at the public Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital.

The 79-year-old with several chronic illnesses was declared dead on Tuesday.

He was admitted to the hospital on

May 7, with stable vitals at the time.

But at 4.40am on Monday, alarms from a cardiac monitor attached to the patient were set off when his heart stopped.

Staffers resuscitated and intubated him, during which they found eight rolled-up paper tissues in his throat.

The patient died at noon on Tuesday following failed resuscitation attempts.

The hospital yesterday said it had reported the incident to the police and would fully comply with the police inquiry.

"We are highly concerned about the incident and have alerted the Hospital Authority head office via the advance incident reporting system," it said. "The case has also been passed to the coroner."

Police said a hospital staffer lodged a report on the incident on Tuesday afternoon and that the cause of the death would be determined in an autopsy.

"The case has been classified as a death report, and is being followed up by the Tai Po division crime unit," police said.

Emergency medicine specialist Axel Siu Yuet-chung said the incident was likely to have been self-inflicted.

"But we cannot deduce if it was the patient's own doing so far," he said.

"The items in his throat were tissues, not gauze, but hospital medical procedures do not involve the use of tissues."

Sources said the patient called his family about his condition every day, including the day before the incident, and sought treatment for it at the hospital frequently.

In 2016, three nurses were found guilty of professional misconduct following a 2011 medical blunder that saw a patient die after his airway was blocked by gauze in Kowloon Hospital in Kowloon City.

The patient, Wang Keng-kao, 73, who suffered from hypopharynx cancer, was sent to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei in June 2011, where he received throat removal surgery and had a tracheostomy to create an artificial opening in his neck - in the windpipe - to allow breathing.

Wang had a stroke later and was transferred to Kowloon Hospital for rehabilitation.

Nurses there were found to have covered the breathing hole with gauze and taped all four sides after mistaking the permanent tracheostomy for a temporary one. He died a week later on November 14.

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