Surgical chief to quit after 25 years

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2008, 12:00am

Decision 'not forced by troubles at HKU'

The head of surgery at the University of Hong Kong has decided to step down from the post he has held for 25 years.

John Wong told the South China Morning Post last night that his decision had nothing to do with the series of controversies that had erupted around him, including repeated accusations that his presence had resulted in poor morale in his department.

The medical faculty has been beset by poor morale, a high attrition rate among doctors and a series of other scandals.

Some doctors complained that Professor Wong, 66, had held the top post for too long. He has led the department of surgery since 1982.

He said his resignation would give him more time to care for his 94-year-old father, who was moving from Sydney to Hong Kong in two weeks.

He notified the university's vice-chancellor, Tsui Lap-chee, the acting dean of medicine, Raymond Liang Hin-suen, and Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk on Friday.

'I have decided to step down but it has absolutely nothing to do with anything else,' Professor Wong said. 'My father needs care. I want to spend more time with him. If it were because of the controversy, I would have stepped down a long time ago ... nobody can influence my decision.'

Professor Wong will remain a full-time professor of surgery.

He said a new head would be appointed in less than two months.

'There will be a due process, it will not be an inside job,' he said.

Professor Wong previously said his repeated reappointments to the post had been well supported and subject to consultation among his colleagues.

Acting dean of medicine Raymond Liang Hin-suen said last night the university was reviewing the terms of department heads. 'If everyone thinks the term should be limited, the university should consider it.'

Executive councillor and university council member Leong Che-hung said the scandal-hit faculty needed major surgery to uphold its status and recover from record low staff morale.

A committee of inquiry, headed by Dr Leong, was set up to investigate the billing of private patients after the resignation of former dean Lam Shiu-kum in March last year. The committee has referred the case to an unnamed law enforcement agency.

In January, two senior doctors from the university's liver transplant team left following an internal dispute. This left the Hospital Authority worried about the team's manpower.

In October 2006, the chair professor in surgery and head of the liver transplant team, Fan Sheung-tat, tendered his resignation, claiming his workload was too heavy.

The naming of the faculty after tycoon Li Ka-shing upon receipt of a HK$1 billion donation in 2005 triggered a storm.