Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority has apologised after slabs of concrete fell from the ceiling of a consultation room in Kwai Chung Hospital, the latest in a series of safety incidents in the city’s public hospitals that has to come to light in recent weeks.
Addressing reporters on Wednesday, Kwai Chung Hospital Chief Executive Desmond Nguyen said authorities were investigating the situation, including whether the collapse was related to a water leakage.
“This caused colleagues, patients and family members to be scared,” Nguyen said. “We apologise for the inconvenience.”
Photos of the fallen slabs of concrete surfaced on an Instagram page on Tuesday. The pictures showed large chunks of concrete amid a desktop computer and printer.
Nguyen said the incident happened at around 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, when a loud bang was heard coming from a consultation room on the first floor of the hospital’s L block.
“The largest concrete piece that fell measured 30 cm by 30 cm,” Nguyen said, adding that staff immediately cordoned off the room as well as neighbouring consultation rooms.
“Luckily, it happened in the middle of the night, so nobody was injured, and there were no staff using the consultation rooms at the time,” Nguyen said.
An adjacent room was also found to have some potentially poorly affixed concrete, the chief executive added.
According to Nguyen, the last time a building safety inspection was done at Kwai Chung Hospital was in 2021.
Concern over ‘recent incidents’
The falling concrete at Kwai Chung Hospital is the latest in a string of maintenance faults at the city’s public hospitals.
In mid-February, a surgical light attached to the ceiling came loose in an operating theatre at United Christian Hospital, injuring a staff member. Investigation showed that screws in the “main post of the concerned surgical light” were “all broken,” the Hospital Authority said.
Earlier this month, authorities said a ceiling hoist used to lift patients in a rehabilitation ward in Tuen Mun Hospital had fallen. There were no injuries, they added.
And on Sunday, a photo circulated online of a large slab of concrete on an empty patient bed, prompting the Hospital Authority to confirm that the incident took place at Castle Peak Hospital in November and that nobody had ben injured.
“We are very concerned about the recent incidents… the safety of our patients and staff is our priority,” Tony Ko, the chief executive of the Hospital Authority, told reporters. “The Hospital Authority will take all feasible measures to ensure the safety of our staff and patients.”
Committee to ‘review maintenance’
The Hospital Authority announced on Monday that it would form a committee to review the maintenance of medical equipment and facilities at public hospitals and provide relevant advice.
Preliminary inspections would be completed within a month, the Hospital Authority said, and within three months, recommendations will be made to improve processes such as communication procedures when such incidents happen.
Asked by a reporter whether the fact that recent incidents were only addressed after photos surfaced online meant the Hospital Authority could do more to increase its transparency, Ko said the Authority had “all along employed open and transparent policies.”
He said staff were required to report incidents through an online mechanism, which notifies the hospital management, the hospital cluster, and the Hospital Authority’s head office.
Nguyen said it was not yet known whether the falling concrete at Kwai Chung Hospital involved human error, but that it was among the aspects being investigated.
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