Home News Surgeon inserts catheter on 'wrong' side of patient's stomach, SGH issues apology

Surgeon inserts catheter on ‘wrong’ side of patient’s stomach, SGH issues apology

The surgeon who operated on her never consulted her




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Singapore – A patient undergoing peritoneal dialysis for kidney failure took to social media to request financial assistance to improve her living environment. She is facing a lot of inconvenience in her daily life, she wrote, because a surgeon inserted the catheter on the wrong side of her stomach.

The hospital in its apology admitted the catheter was not inserted where she “preferred” but added that does not affect the dialysis.

Ms Celine Wu, 36, wrote about her plight in  a Facebook post on Feb 27. Sje was diagnosed with last stage kidney failure in September last year after being admitted to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) for pneumonia.

Ms Wu, a working mother living with her husband and five-year-old daughter, was informed that both her kidneys only have an eight per cent working function. Doctors suggested peritoneal dialysis to treat kidney failure as soon as possible.

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She had a consultation with her surgeon at SGH, Dr Tang, who took into consideration where the catheter would be placed. Dr Tang asked Ms Wu if she was left or right-handed as it would determine which side the insertion would be made.

Given that Ms Wu was left-handed, Dr Tang recommended inserting the catheter from the right. They also considered her sleeping position, noting that placing the insertion on the left side of her stomach would cause inconveniences in her daily life.

Catheter inserted on the wrong side

After waking up from her surgery on Nov 2 last year, however, Ms Wu discovered that another surgeon had operated on her. The catheter was also placed on the left side of her stomach, contrary to Dr Tang’s recommendation.

“The surgeon who did the procedure on that day did not even consult me about the change of location to insert and exit the catheter, also before I knew who was my surgeon, I have already been given general anaesthesia and put to sleep,” said Ms Wu in her post. “I was really very upset and disappointed over the procedure when I woke up in the ward.”

Ms Wu and her husband asked to speak with the surgeon who operated on her. “All our requests to see the surgeon were left unattended until the day I was discharged,” said Ms Wu.

She noted that two months had passed, and no one reached out to her on the matter. “As the catheter is inserted at the wrong location, it has caused a lot of inconveniences to my daily life,” added Ms Wu.

She explained experiencing pain in the middle of the night as the tube would accidentally be kicked by her husband or daughter. They were left with no other choice but to sleep separately, said Ms Wu.

“Also, on many occasions, I risked the tube being tripped over by my husband and daughter.”

She expressed her concern to her peritoneal dialysis doctor during her review last month. She was advised to email SGH’s feedback portal to address the situation.

Option to re-operate

A few days before Chinese New Year, Dr Tang contacted the family, and he suggested re-operating on Ms Wu to shift the tube. Ms Wu pointed out that re-operating would entail going through the pain again for a few months and would result in being warded after surgery.

“I have already been cut once, which unfortunately already cut at the wrong side. How will I want to come to acceptance (sic) to be cut the second time as I am not just any meat that can be bought from the wet market and cut as how the doctor likes,” said Ms Wu.

She added that her health was suffering, with a low heart function of about 49 per cent and a low blood count. Ms Wu was also a diabetes patient.

Request for financial assistance

To improve her living condition, Ms Wu began fundraising for home renovation and repairs. She uploaded photos in the post illustrating their “run-down” unit.

Photo: FB screengrab/Fund Raising for Celine Wu

Photo: FB screengrab/Fund Raising for Celine Wu

“My husband has just been retrenched last Dec 2020 and embarked on a new job mid-Jan with a huge pay cut,” said Ms Wu.

“It is an embarrassing experience to seek the public for financial assistance; however, we hope that the financial assistance that we receive can help my husband to lessen his financial liabilities and burden to shoulder this family.”

SGH issues apology

In response to the incident, SGH’s Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Vascular Surgery, Chong Tze Tec, issued an apology on behalf of the hospital for causing distress to Ms Wu and her family, reported mothership.sg.

Mr Chong noted that Dr Tang was unavailable at the time of Ms Wu’s surgery because he was attending to other patients, which took longer than anticipated. A different surgeon handled Ms Wu’s surgery so as not to keep her waiting longer than necessary in the operation room.

“We understand that the catheter was not inserted at the site which Ms Wu had preferred, but we would like to assure her that it does not affect the function of the catheter for peritoneal dialysis.

“While the medical team had checked in on Ms Wu daily during her stay in SGH, we regret that her specific request to see the surgeon was not conveyed. We apologise for the lapse in communication.

“We are in touch with Ms Wu to address her concerns. We are also working on improving communication among our staff to avoid causing patients unnecessary anxiety,” said Mr Chong to mothership.sg./TISG

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