The Hong Kong health authority is seeking clarification from a private hospital that refused to treat a patient with a “suspicious wound” – and then reported the person to police.
Hong Kong Adventist Hospital in Tsuen Wan on Friday admitted to turning the patient away from its emergency ward at 10.30pm on June 12, the day violence erupted in Admiralty after protests against the government’s extradition bill turned violent.
Hospital workers reported the matter to police,telling them the patient had mentioned seeking treatment at nearby Yan Chai Hospital, where the arrest was made.
Alex Lan, the private hospital’s president, said police visited the clinic at about 6pm that day and asked staff members to report any suspicious injuries related to “Admiralty conflicts”.
Lan said there were notices in the lobby that said the hospital might be required to provide information to relevant authorities depending on the circumstances. He said the signs asked patients to consider whether to seek treatment there.
A patients’ rights group and protesters accused the hospital of being “unethical” for refusing to treat a patient and said it had violated patients’ privacy by calling the police.
On Friday, the health minister, Sophia Chan Siu-chee, said the Department of Health had contacted Adventist Hospital to properly understand the episode.
“Hong Kong is organised by the rule of law,” Chan said. “But in hospitals, anyone who seeks medical care should be given appropriate medical services immediately.”
She continued: “There must be a balance between the rule of law and patients’ privacy.”
In total, 32 protesters have been arrested for taking part in the June 12 protest. Several arrests were made at public hospitals after the protesters went there for treatment.
The Hospital Authority, which manages all the city’s public hospitals, has also been questioned over its role in arrests and privacy protection. The authority’s chief executive, Leung Pak-yin, made a public apology on Thursday.
Leung said the authority had never authorised its staff to report protesters to the police. He also announced that a task force would be set up to identify better ways to protect patients’ medical data.
He said the task force would take three months to explore new technologies that might boost security and add another firewall to the authority’s data system. A police spokesman said officers would not obstruct treatment in hospitals and would trace the location of suspects via different channels.
If officers in the emergency department discovered a patient with suspicious injuries, the spokesman said, they would follow up on their own.
Alex Lam Chi-yau, chairman of Hong Kong Patients’ Voices, said it was a doctor’s duty to treat a patient, and they should have no right to judge whether a patient had committed a criminal act.