The United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong has admitted a mistake after its doctors failed to issue the necessary medicine to a patient.

The patient was 43-year-old Tang Kwai-sze, who made headlines after she received transplants to save her from acute liver failure.

Two specialist doctors involved, each with ten years of experience, failed to issue preventive antiviral drugs for hepatitis B, necessary for Tang’s condition, when treating her kidney problems.

Dr. Chui Tak-yi, chief executive of United Christian Hospital. Photo: Apple Daily.

The matter was discovered early last month and family members were notified in mid April, but the hospital only made it public on Tuesday. But the two doctors have not been suspended. Further action will have to wait until a report by an independent investigation committee is completed.

Timeline 

Dr. Chui Tak-yi, chief executive of United Christian Hospital, said Tang was admitted to the hospital in July last year for high blood pressure. She was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune kidney disease.

When Tang returned to the hospital for a follow-up session in January this year, she was given Prednisolone steroids. The hospital was monitoring her kidney and liver function and other medicines were deemed ineffective.

Tang Kwai-sze (left) and daughter Michelle (right). Photo: Handout

In February, Tang’s condition improved and the dose of steroids was reduced. Chui said that no liver malfunction was observed at the time.

On April 1, Tang was admitted to the hospital once more showing signs of acute liver failure. Four days later, she was transferred to another hospital for assessment as her liver function had reduced.

On April 6, the United Christian Hospital discovered that, when Tang was given steroids in January, the specialist doctors did not realise she was a hepatitis virus B carrier and thus, she was not given the preventive antiviral drug Entecavir at the same time.

Heightened risk 

The hospital admitted that Tang had sought medical help in 2008 and was already known to be a hepatitis virus B carrier at the time.

There is risk of acute liver failure for hepatitis virus B carriers when taking high doses of steroids. If more than 20 milligrams is required over more than two weeks, doctors usually consider giving preventive antiviral drugs.

United Christian Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Tang had her first liver transplant on April 13 at the Queen Mary Hospital.

Chui said Tang’s daughter Michelle asked the United Christian Hospital about her mother’s situation on April 19. She was only notified of the issue at that time.

The hospital then met with Tang’s family members twice on April 21 to explain the incident.

“I admit we were maybe a bit slow in notifying the patient’s family members,” Chui admitted. “On behalf of the United Christian Hospital, I apologise to the patient and her family.”

The hospital noted that the investigation committee will also look into the cause of the acute liver failure.

Tang was in need of a liver transplant but her daughter was three months short of 18 thus she could not be accepted as a donor. It sparked a debate over whether the age for live organ donation should be lowered.

An unrelated person then donated parts of her liver. However, Tang required a second transplant as she was in a critical situation after the first transplant.

Tang remains in intensive care. Her lungs developed a fungal infection and she is dependent on ventilators and dialysis machines.

Latest

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.