Medical Blunders and Negligence Insurance
Hong Kong has an excellent health care system with both public and private hospitals offering world class medical services to residents of the city. However, in any medical system mistakes are likely to happen. Hong Kong is no exception to this rule.
Over the last 20 or so years there have been numerous instances of medical blunders impacting patients in both private and public hospitals. From doctors giving patients the wrong injections as in the recent case of a woman who is provided a Sinovac covid jab rather than her scheduled contraceptive, through to the death of babies, there have even been medical implements left inside patients. Any surgery or intensive health care treatment is likely going to be complicated, when you add the human factor into that complicated scenario mistakes can and will happen.
Hong Kong’s health care system is one of the city’s crown jewels. The doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals operating within the medical system are charged with the burden of taking care of the city. So how did they take care of themselves, especially in a worst-case situation where a mistake happens?
The answer is with medical professional indemnity protection — also known as medical negligence insurance.
Professional Indemnity Insurance
Professional Indemnity Insurance, also known as Errors and Omissions insurance, or (in the case of the health care industry) Medical Negligence insurance, is designed to protect working professionals against the outcomes of mistakes that they may make in the routine course of their employment. For many white-collar industries professional Indemnity insurance protection is entirely optional.
For example, a software agency or a marketing firm would not normally have to purchase professional indemnity protection. The decision of whether or not to obtain this type of insurance coverage will be left up to the company in question. In other industries, however, professional indemnity is a mandatory purchase. A great example of this is with insurance brokers; every single intermediary in Hong Kong is required to hold a specified level of professional indemnity protection.
But why would a business would want to voluntarily purchase professional indemnity insurance?
This type of Insurance ensures that the company being covered is not going to be financially responsible, that is to say liable, should the organization, or one of its employees, make a mistake or commit an error in their work.
For many industries this mistake could be something as simple as missing a word in a contract, or failing to notify a customer about a problem with the service you are providing. But when it comes to health care, a mistake made by a doctor, nurse, or other medical practitioner, can not only be deadly but also has the potential to severely impact a patient for the rest of their lives— often meaning that an individual could be living with extreme pain.
Because of the extensive and long-lasting outcomes of medical mistakes, and the fact that liability surrounding a medical error is typically extremely expensive, insurance underwriters have created a separate class of professional indemnity product designed specifically for workers in health care industries— medical malpractice insurance.
Medical Negligence in Hong Kong
As previously mentioned, Hong Kong has an extremely robust health care system.
In order to become a doctor in the city there are a number of standards that must be reached, including going to medical school and undergoing specific lengths of specialist supervised training. At the end of all this you must pass an exam held by the Hong Kong Academy of Medicine and then register with the Hong Kong Medical Council in order to practice medicine within your chosen specialty.
However, after all that work a mistake can still happen.
Under Hong Kong law medical negligence is a form of professional negligence. It arises from an omission, or an act, by a medical practitioner where the treatment being offered falls outside standard medical practice, and causes injury, and possibly death to the patient receiving treatment.
Medical Negligence Claims in Hong Kong
A large number of medical negligence claims in Hong Kong stem from a proximate cause of medical error — this can be a result of surgery, or can simply be due to substandard treatment provided by the healthcare professional.
Under Hong Kong law a patient has up to three years after an incident, or the date that the patient became aware of the issue, in which to report their claim of negligence. This means that Hong Kong doctors, nurses, and healthcare practitioners, could be facing an allegation of negligence for treatments or surgeries that they provided years ago. Any patient in Hong Kong can contact the Medical Council of Hong Kong to lodge a medical malpractice or medical negligence claim.
However, the Council can only look at issues relating to negligence of registered doctors. This means that many soft medical providers, such as beauty salons or cosmetic aestheticians, fall outside of the framework of the Medical Council of Hong Kong. As such, practitioners within the soft medical field will normally deal with errors and emissions claims on a civil basis, directly in court.
No matter whether a claim is being investigated by the medical council, or on a civil basis by Hong Kong’s legal system, the impact of a negligence allegation on any single practice or hospital or doctor can be calamitous— leading to fines financial retributions and even the loss of a license.
Medical Negligence Insurance in Hong Kong
Because the definition of medical negligence under Hong Kong law is so broad, it then follows that the coverage supplied under any insurance policy covering medical negligence and errors would also be extremely broad.
Under many Hong Kong medical malpractice insurance options, the policy will actually offer protection against quote “any Civil Claims and Regulatory Hearings” giving you coverage against the costs associated with legal protection to fight the claim, and any financial judgements that do no go in your favor. In fact, under the wording of most medical negligence insurance products in Hong Kong unless a specific exclusion applies to the claim that is being alleged at a doctor, the policy will normally offer protection no matter what the claim itself is.
Medical Negligence Insurance Advice
Any individual providing any form of health care treatment should strongly consider obtaining medical negligence insurance. For some doctors such as those operating in public or private hospitals or those registered through the Hong Kong Medical Council medical professional indemnity insurance can be a mandatory purchase. For others, such as physiotherapist acupuncturist estheticians and beauty treatment providers, the purchase of medical errors and omissions insurance is largely an optional choice.
Having said this CCW Global strongly recommends that anybody involved in the medical or soft health care industries in Hong Kong strongly consider purchasing this type of protection. Even veterinarians working with animals will have Hong Kong’s medical negligence laws applied to their services. Animals can be the victim of bad health care, just as much as humans can. So, when we say anybody involved in medical or self to medical industries, we mean just that— because negligence claims can happen at any place at any time especially with health care.
For more information, please contact the expert independent insurance brokers at CCW Global to discuss your needs today.
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