21 November 2017
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Family of man who died after 4-year coma settles claim

Straits Times
02 Nov 2017
K.C. Vijayan & Seow Bei Yi

Global settlement of $1.28m reached with hospital, docs includes hospital and treatment bills of about $755,000

He was first admitted to hospital in 2012 for day surgery to cure a nose disorder that leads to snoring, but fell into a coma lasting more than four years.

On Sept 21 last year, Chinese national Gu Ziqiang, 37, died in hospital following complications. He had been in a nursing home since 2015, where he had been in a persistent vegetative state.

His wife Kong Ling Hui, 37, remained embroiled in a lawsuit against Jurong Health Services and three doctors involved in his case, for alleged negligence.

After having reached a settlement on the negligence claim on Tuesday, Mr Gu's family, who remained in Sichuan province when he moved here to work, is set to receive $397,200 as the final payout.

This is over and above some $129,770 paid in advance between 2014 and last year as goodwill and interim payouts as well as for travel, accommodation and other expenses incurred by family members, including funeral costs.

Among other things, Jurong Health Services dropped all hospital charges for Mr Gu, which totalled $599,327, and the defendants further agreed to settle the expenses of his nursing home stay, which amounted to some $156,286.

The global settlement involving some $1.28 million was approved by Judicial Commissioner Pang Khang Chau in the High Court on Tuesday.

The approval was the outcome of agreement talks after Mr Gu's death between the family's lawyer, Mr N. Srinivasan from Hoh Law Corporation, and Rodyk & Davidson lawyers for the doctors and hospital, led by Mr Lek Siang Pheng and Ms Kuah Boon Theng respectively .

In July 2012, Mr Gu, who worked here for three years driving a bus for SBS, was admitted for day surgery at Alexandra Hospital to remove a nasal obstruction.

In the operating theatre, a tube was inserted into his windpipe to help in breathing and protect his airway before the surgery began.

But 20 minutes later, the oxygen level in Mr Gu's blood fell. Subsequently, an intensive care unit (ICU) consultant re-checked the tube placement, among other things, according to court papers.

Mr Gu had fallen into a coma and remained in the ICU for more than a month.

He was transferred to a nursing home in 2015, and died last year.

"I found out he died the day it happened," Madam Kong told The Straits Times in a phone interview from Sichuan province. "My lawyer told me about it, and I called the nursing home staff." She was told her husband had died of a lung infection.

"I found it too sudden," she said. "They told me he was all right previously, that there were not many changes to his health, and he had been gaining weight."

She said she was unable to travel to Singapore for his cremation as she had to care for their two sons, now aged six and nine. His ashes were sent back home.

"When my mother-in-law heard about his death, she lay in bed for three days," said Madam Kong.

Of the compensation, she said: "It takes so much more to raise two children, and care for my in-laws."

Madam Kong works as a retail staff earning 2,000 yuan ($411) a month. She said her in-laws have been hospitalised twice since Mr Gu's death, with bills amounting to tens of thousands of yuan each time.

Even now, they go to the hospital every month to collect medication.

She has not received the money, and said it will take some time.

"My husband is gone," she added. "Even if I felt some things were unfair, there is nothing we can do about it. I have a family and children to care for, and cannot keep dwelling on this."


SHOCKING NEWS

I found it too sudden. They told me he was all right previously, that there were not many changes to his health, and he had been gaining weight.

MADAM KONG LING HUI, Chinese national Gu Ziqiang's wife, on his death last year.

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.