Department head defends his 25-year tenure in the post

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 February, 2008, 12:00am

The University of Hong Kong's head of surgery, John Wong, says his repeated reappointments to the post for 25 years have been well supported and subject to consultation among his colleagues.

Rejecting criticism that he should be partly blamed for poor morale at the department, Professor Wong said the university had always had an open and transparent system for senior appointments, including his.

Professor Wong, now 66, has led the department of surgery since 1982.

On staff appointments, he said: 'The dean of medicine solicits the wishes and comments of staff in the department of surgery and makes recommendations to the vice-chancellor, who makes the final decision and reports to [the university] council.'

He did not agree that staff morale was at a record low, and put the relatively high attrition rate among surgeons down to a mix of factors.

'The private market is booming and some doctors want to switch to the private sector. It is not a problem unique to us. It happens at all public hospitals, and many Hospital Authority departments also have doctors leaving.'

Regarding the latest incident, in which two surgeons from the liver transplant team left after an internal dispute, Professor Wong said he was ready to discuss the team's manpower problems with the Hospital Authority.

'If the authority can give us more resources, we are ready to train more doctors,' he said. 'We have never opposed having more than one [liver transplant] centre in Hong Kong. But the fact is there are not enough cases to support another centre at the moment.'

He also rejected claims that the attempted resignation in 2006 of the liver transplant team leader, Fan Sheung-tat, was a result of internal discord. Professor Fan later decided to stay on until his retirement in four years.

'We get along with each other very well as with other professors in the department,' Professor Wong said. 'Professor Fan has said many times that his resignation at that time had nothing to do with me. '

Professor Wong said the department would continue to train more surgeons and uphold medical standards.