Wanthana Phutcho, 46, died on Sunday (Oct 4) after eating a horseshoe crab that she caught with a friend near Soi King Kaew, Rassada.
Speaking at her daughter’s funeral on Monday, Ms Wanthana’s mother, Somjai Kingwongsa, 64, explained to reporters that she and her daughter went foraging for cockles in the mangroves on Sunday morning. While collecting the small clams, they also caught three horseshoe crabs and brought them home.
Ms Wanthana grilled one of the horseshoe crabs and ate it. Soon after, she started vomiting. She also developed a severe headache and dizziness.
Ms Somjai took Ms Wanthana to the Phuket Provincial Hospital in Rassada, but the hospital told her to take her daughter to Vachira Phuket Hospital, where Ms Wanthana was registered to receive state medical treatment.
Ms Somjai first took her daughter home, where Ms Wanthana’s condition deteriorated quickly. She started turning green, prompting Ms Somjai to call the Narenthorn Emergency hotline 1669 for an ambulance.
By the time the ambulance had arrived, Ms Wanthana had already lost consciousness. Attempts to revive her failed.
Ms Wantana’s family have now filed a complaint with the Phuket Provincial Ombudsman’s Office, calling for the medical personnel to explain their actions.
Although Phuket Provincial Hospital, located in Rassada, occupies buildings owned by the Phuket Provincial Administration Organisation (PPAO, or OrBorJor in Thai), it is operated by private medical care provider Thonburi Hospital Public Co Ltd under a government concession.
Also, by law since 2017 any Thai citizens suffering from critical conditions can seek immediate medical treatment at any nearby hospital for 72 hours without paying for the costs, which will be later covered by state emergency medical care.
After 72 hours from admission of critical patients, hospitals may refer the patient to the hospital at which the patient is registered to receive treatment benefits. Patients are required to cover for their own expenses if they wish to continue receiving treatment at the hospital they are initially admitted, state news agency NNT confirmed when announcing the news.
Ms Wanthana’s uncle, Anukul Leng-ie, yesterday (Oct 6) told reporters, “We want to fight for Wanthana’s life and justice. Our family has filed a complaint with the Phuket office of the Damrongdhama Center [Ombudsman’s Office].
“We want Phuket Provincial Hospital to be responsible for her death. While Wanthana was receiving medical treatment in the emergency room, the doctor ordered her to stay at the hospital for two hours. She was given three types of medicines and an injection, and then allowed her to return home,” Mr Anukul said.
“After she arrived home, she went into shock, so we called the 1669 emergency hotline. She was rushed to Vachira Phuket Hospital [but was pronounced dead]. Medical staff there asked us why we did not bring her earlier,” he added.
“We have to ask the medical staff at the Provincial Hospital whether they underestimated her symptoms and why they did not transfer her to another hospital or continue to provide treatment for a longer time,” Mr Anukul said.
Dr Phanlop Thepwong, Head of Phuket Provincial Hospital’s Medical Department, told the press yesterday, “From questioning doctors and medical staff, I was told that she came to the hospital with the symptom of itching all over her body and that she had drunk some alcohol before coming.
“Doctors checked and gave her treatment in accordance with their initial examination. After keeping her under observation for one hour and thirty minutes, her symptoms improved. Medical staff discussed with her relatives and concluded that they would take her home,” Dr Panlop said.
“Medical staff told them to keep watch for any deterioration in her condition and reminded them that if she had any strange symptoms, to please rush her to hospital,” Dr Panlop added.
“For the relatives’ concern, we did not ignore them, as we have already contacted them to explain what had happened and we sent some staff to console them,” he said.
In response, Ms Wanthana’s mother, Ms Somjai, told reporters, “I assure you that my daughter did not drink any alcohol before going to the hospital. She only ate the horseshoe crab.
“I don’t understand why the medical staff did not transfer her to Vachira Phuket Hospital, instead of allowing us to take her home. I want the hospital staff to clarify the facts,” she added.
“Staff of the hospital came to the funeral and gave a wreath, but we did not have any conversation together while staff from Vachira Hospital told us that they are ready to help us,” she said.
Ms Wanthana’s funeral has been held at Samnaksong King Kaew in Rassada since Monday.
Her remains will be cremated at Wat Thaworn Khunaram (Wat Saensuk) in Phuket Town tomorrow (Oct 8), Ms Somjai said.
The Phuket Provincial Health Office (PPHO) is investigating the treatment provided and the decision to allow Ms Wanthana to be discharged from hospital care, PPHO Deputy Chief Dr Krit Sakulpat has confirmed.
“I was informed that the woman received treatment at the Phuket Provincial Hospital and at Vachira Hospital. At this stage, PPHO officers are collecting information about this case and questioning medical staff in order to be fair for everyone,” he said.
“This is the first case in Phuket of someone dying from eating horseshoe crab,” Dr Krit noted.
“The symptoms from eating poisonous horseshoe crab are like normal food poisoning, but the poison will numb the tongue, hands, legs and cause breathing difficulty, leading to death,” Dr Krit also noted.
“At this stage, there is no antitoxin for ingesting the poison from a horseshoe crab. We can only treat the symptoms until the patient’s condition improves,” he said.