Hong Kong health authorities have been forced to review their safety protocols for the transport of corpses and the admission of asymptomatic patients following two rare medical blunders involving a deceased man and a pregnant woman with Covid-19.
The incidents came to light as the city reported 15 new coronavirus infections on Sunday. The new cases, which took Hong Kong’s infection tally to 4,801, marked the third-lowest daily total since July 3. More than 10 people also tested preliminary positive on Sunday, pending confirmation.
Sunday also brought news of the death of an 83-year-old Covid-19 patient, raising the number of coronavirus-related fatalities to 88.
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The latest figures, however, were not the focus for much of the day’s regular press conference, as health officials repeatedly fielded questions and admitted mistakes in the handling of two Covid-19 patients, and promised a review of the relevant guidelines.
One case involved a 59-year-old patient who died in Tseung Kwan O Hospital on Wednesday. Dr Sara Ho Yuen-ha, a chief manager at the Hospital Authority, said the man was critically ill when taken to the hospital at 3pm that day, and died shortly afterwards, at about 3.45pm.
Samples for a Covid-19 test were collected before he died, but the corpse had already been transported to a mortuary by Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) staff when results came back at about 10pm confirming his infection.
Five FEHD workers, who did not wear protective equipment when transferring the dead body, will undergo quarantine after being classified as close contacts.
“If protective equipment hasn’t been worn, we believe there are some risks,” Ho admitted.
Currently, the corpses of Covid-19 patients are tagged with a type 2 yellow label. FEHD workers responsible for handling and transporting the body put on gloves, waterproof gowns and surgical masks. They also wear goggles and a face shield if they are likely to be affected by body fluids.
Ho said that in the wake of the incident, the authority’s guidelines would be amended to require hospital staff to test all patients judged to be at risk for Covid-19 infections. The FEHD, meanwhile, would only be contacted to move the dead bodies after test results came back.
The other incident centred on a heavily pregnant 31-year-old patient. Ho said the 39-week pregnant woman went to Tuen Mun Hospital on Saturday and told health workers she had taken her temperature at home and found she had a fever.
The woman was admitted to a medicine and geriatric ward, as she did not have a fever upon admission, but later tested preliminary positive for the virus. Ten other women in her ward, including another pregnant woman, have since been quarantined.
Ho apologised, calling the incident “not optimal”. She said patients with symptoms, along with those who have been in contact with confirmed cases or had a recent travel history, are to be deemed high risk and admitted into isolation wards.
She added that the authority would review its admission procedures, without going into detail.
Of Sunday’s confirmed cases, five were imported, while five of the local infections were without a known source, according to Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Centre for Health Protection’s communicable disease branch. The imported cases involved a seaman and a domestic worker from the Philippines, and three returnees from India.
Chuang also revealed the locally transmitted cases included one more nurse at Dr Tse Kin-wah’s clinic where a nurse had previously been confirmed as infected. Three more residents at Hong Chi Lei Muk Shue hostel, a home for the mentally disabled, were also confirmed, taking the total infections there to 11 residents and six carers.
A part-time taxi driver, a police officer, a cleaner at Pacific Place shopping centre and a cleaner at the Hong Kong Cricket Club were also confirmed to be patients.
This article Coronavirus: Hong Kong health officials forced to explain mishandling of corpse, asymptomatic woman’s admission to non-isolation ward as city records 15 new infections first appeared on South China Morning Post