Hong Kong hospital apologises for 61-year-old man's death after student nurse tends to him

A hospital in Hong Kong apologised on Monday (Aug 27) for the death of a patient after a student nurse performed a procedure unsupervised.

Earlier on Aug 4, a 61-year-old man died in Tuen Mun Hospital after a nursing student tried to perform a tracheal suction - a procedure on one's windpipe - on the man to no avail, the hospital said in a statement.

The hospital said that the student had attempted the procedure on the patient after learning that the latter felt discomfort with saliva and mucus caught in his throat, which can cause rapid and shallow breathing.

The patient also had a temporary tracheostomy, which is a surgically created hole through the front of his neck and into his windpipe.

The procedure was not successfully performed and the man was found to have some blood in his vomit, the South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.

The student nurse then sought help from a duty nurse in the ward, who took over the procedure together with other nurses.

However, the hospital said that the patient's condition kept deteriorating and the patient's tracheostomy tube was also displaced.

Two on-duty doctors in the ward also arrived shortly to help manage the patient but he went into cardiac arrest. Although the patient survived the cardiac arrest after resuscitation efforts and was taken to the intensive care unit, his condition deteriorated and he died on Saturday.

The hospital admitted that, according to protocol, supervision and guidance must be provided when a nursing student is performing tracheostomy suction for patients.

It added that it "has been closely communicating with the patient's relatives and apologised for not adhering to the protocol in which supervision and guidance must be provided to a nursing student for the aforementioned procedure".

The case has been referred to a coroner and the hospital confirmed that it will launch an investigation.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.