by Wai Man Ling, Hong Kong East Cluster, Hong Kong, China. ISNCC Communications Committee Member.
A 51-year-old leukaemia patient died of post chemotherapy septicaemia after a 5-hour delay in antibiotics treatment in Hong Kong 4 years ago. The incident has drawn the attention in the public and the healthcare community again after the verdict of Coroner’s Court in November 2015 (Lo, 2015). The coroner attributed the tragedy to a series of unfortunate mistakes, especially the multiple delays in the antibiotics treatment when the patient attended the two Accident and Emergency Departments (AEDs) for fever. She continued to urge the Hospital Authority (HA) of Hong Kong to review the existing clinical practice. Emergency protocol should be in place and there should be adequate instructions to the patients and the family members prior to post chemotherapy discharge (Lau, 2015).
Neutropenic fever is a known oncological emergency. Its mortality can be largely reduced by prompt and appropriate responses from the attending healthcare professionals. I believe that this unfortunate but real case can once again illustrate the risk vividly and further boost our vigilance. In response to the incident, the HA is now co-ordinating a number of remedial actions in the local public hospitals. Management guidelines will be developed. Emergency antibiotics kit is being considered to install in all the Accident and Emergency, Oncology, and Haematology Departments to facilitate a timely initiation of antibiotics treatment.
Moreover, concerns from the external accreditation body have given extra momentum to the move. Just take my hospital as an example, the external surveyors scrutinized the policies and performance of my Department in this area during their visit last year. Thereafter, we had implemented a number of improvement measures. We conducted a retrospective baseline audit on the door-to-needle (DTN) time for antibiotics treatment for the period of 2013-14. Similar to the findings of other local audits, our performance fell short of the international recommendations in terms of the mean DTN time (Chan, Wong, & Wu, 2015). Then, we developed the new clinical management guidelines, and collaborated with our AED and Pharmacy to establish a new workflow. Currently, we are conducting a post audit to review the effectiveness of our new practice.
On the other hand, our experience has underlined some pivotal roles played by the oncology nurses in enhancing the service. Firstly, we help to design the emergency protocol and the Chemotherapy Alert Card, and incorporate this new information in the pre-chemotherapy education for patients. Secondly, we liaise with the various Departments to establish an agreed workflow. We have then briefed the staff members on this workflow, and also educated the doctors and nurses of our AED on the use of different types of central catheters for blood culture and antibiotics treatment. Thirdly, we help to collect patient data for the post clinical audit.
Through this sharing, I would like to restate the importance of the prompt management of post chemotherapy neutropenic fever, and the significant contributions that oncology nurses can make in this area.
Chan, S. H. O., Wong, K. M. I., & Wu, Y. G. P. (2015). Clinical Audit on Initial Management of Neutropenic Fever Patients. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Clinical Oncology, Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, Hong Kong.
Lau, C. (2015, November 19). ‘A series of unfortunate events’: Hong Kong coroner rules cab driver whose hospital treatment was delayed died of natural cause. South China Morning Post. Retrieved from http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/law-crime/article/1880148/series-unfortunate-events-hong-kong-coroner-rules-cab
Lo, K. (2015, November 19). Natural causes ruling after leukemia delays. The Standard. Retrieved from http://www.thestandard.com.hk/news_print.asp?art_id=163364&sid=45601959