Chief of rival hospital joins row over heart scan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 December, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2002, 12:00am

The top executive of a private hospital yesterday added his voice to growing concerns about the accuracy of a heart scan used at Matilda Hospital.

South China Morning Post readers also questioned why patients were paying high prices for executive check-ups, including the Electron Beam Tomography (EBT) scan, that may subject people to what they said was 'needless anxiety'.

The medical superintendent of St Teresa's Hospital, Wong Chi-ming, who is also a cardiologist, said his hospital had opted to buy the latest Cardiac Magnetic Resonance imaging system for its Sir Run Run Shaw Heart Centre, which has been relocated to a new multi-storey building.

Asked why the hospital did not opt for the EBT scanner, he said: 'If I may refer to an article in the South China Morning Post just a few days ago, you will know how the College of Cardiology feels about the EBT. I do not really want to elaborate on that.'

Dr Wong said the imaging technique his hospital had chosen had the ability to pinpoint the area of the narrowing vessels non-invasively and carried less than a one in 2.5 million risk of accidental death. 'You stand a better chance of winning a triple trio,' he said, referring to horse-racing's outside-odds bet.

Criticising the cost of the EBT scans - $3,000 for a one-off and $11,000 if part of an executive check-up - one reader said he regularly had a comprehensive, over-40s check-up at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok for 12,500 baht (HK$2,250). 'The Bumrungrad is perhaps the most expensive hospital in Thailand. The difference [in price] not only would cover a return ticket, but also the cost of a good holiday.'

He added that his check-up also included blood analysis, a chest X-ray, ultrasound and a test for prostate cancer.

Another reader complained: 'There are many for-profit clinics in Hong Kong advertising one-stop health checks. It puts many people through needless anxiety, and at a high cost.'

The EBT scan is the only one of its kind in Hong Kong and has been used on an estimated 4,000 patients at Matilda Hospital since December 2000.

The Post revealed last week that some cardiologists had seen dozens of patients who had undergone the scan and been given high calcium scores or been diagnosed with diseases but were later found to be in good health. Company executive Alan Ruxton, 50, told how he underwent an executive check-up, spending $18,000 on the EBT and follow-up tests at Matilda. He was diagnosed with a major 'left main artery' disease. When he underwent an invasive angiogram at Adventist Hospital, spending a further $20,000, the tests revealed everything was normal.

A Matilda Hospital spokeswoman told the Post in an earlier interview: 'You have a lot of executives at high risk - aged 45 and above - they come through for their health assessment. So it [the EBT scan] is basically to keep our level of preventative medicine very high. When we bought this scan, we believed it was the best on the market to detect [heart disease] non-invasively.'

The spokeswoman did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Patrick Ko Tak-him, president of the Hong Kong College of Cardiology, said it was considering issuing guidelines on the EBT heart scan. The Health, Welfare and Food Bureau has also said regulations on the use of medical devices would be tightened to ensure quality services for patients.

Graphic: SCAN05GET