No regrets but I feel heat, says minister

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am


Food and Health Secretary Dr Ko Wing-man (pictured) said he was shocked by former development chief Mak Chai-kwong's alleged abuse of a civil service rent subsidy in the 1980s and Mak's subsequent resignation.

Ko, the first minister to speak candidly since Mak's arrest last Thursday by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, said he did not regret joining the government.

'This was a price I was willing to pay. But still I feel a bit sorry for my family,' said Ko yesterday as the two-week-old administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying faces ongoing controversies.

Leung has come under renewed fire for refusing to take a stand over the death of mainland dissident Li Wangyang, who was found hanged in Hunan province on June 6.

Ko said the atmosphere had been heavy at recent meetings between Leung and his cabinet.

'I can see from each other's eyes that we are not feeling at ease, but I can also feel the support we have for each other as a team,' he said.

But he admitted that 'the kitchen is hotter than I thought' and that the temperature had reached an 'uncomfortable level'.

In separate interviews with RTHK and Commercial Radio, Ko was asked about his earlier responses to Li's suspicious death.

Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, Ko's predecessor, said the death was 'unlikely' to have been suicide, as mainland police have claimed.

Ko said earlier he needed to look at medical reports before commenting on Li's death - a comment which prompted criticism that he was 'insensitive' and 'lacked morality'.

The health chief yesterday offered his condolences but insisted it was his professional duty to examine all the facts before making a comment.

'As a medical professional I cannot answer those questions without knowing the facts well, or else it may cause more speculation,' Ko said.

Referring to the government's health care goals, Ko said the waiting time for admission to emergency wards in public hospitals would be shortened, and that more reasonable waiting times should be set for seeing general practitioners and specialists.

Hiring more medical staff to ease manpower shortages at public hospitals was the most urgent task, he said.

Ko said he hoped doubling the value of health care vouchers for the elderly to HK$1,000 next year would divert patients to private doctors.