HKU medical faculty 'needs to rebuild trust'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2008, 12:00am

University vice-chancellor urges staff unity

A 'culture of unity' is needed for the University of Hong Kong's medical school after a spate of bad publicity, the university's vice-chancellor said.

Professor Tsui Lap-chee acknowledged that the medical faculty needed to rebuild harmony and restore staff morale.

Leong Che-hung, a member of the university council and the chief executive's cabinet, said earlier that the faculty was 'living in its past glory'. He called on the vice-chancellor to restore the reputation of the 120-year-old school. Dr Leong last year headed the university's investigation into a billing scandal at the medical faculty's private clinics.

'I agree with [Dr Leong] that we need a culture of unity in the faculty. But it takes time to build the trust among people,' Professor Tsui said.

He said the university had already taken steps to improve the patients-billing system with the Hospital Authority and Queen Mary Hospital.

In 2005, the faculty faced strong opposition from some alumni when it was renamed after tycoon Li Ka-shing following his HK$1 billion donation.

Professor Tsui said the bad publicity surrounding the faculty was partly because the media paid more attention to it than to other schools.

Conflicts among academic staff have repeatedly made headlines.

In October 2006, Fan Sheung-tat, the university's chair professor of surgery and head of its liver transplant team, tendered his resignation claiming a heavy workload. He later decided to stay.

In January this year, two senior doctors from the university's liver transplant team left following an internal dispute. Separately, the faculty's liver expert, George Lau Ka-kit, sued three other senior doctors for defamation stemming from what he claims was a long-standing unpaid debt.

Professor Tsui said internal conflicts were not unique to the faculty. 'Conflicts exist in all organisations including universities,' he said. 'Sometimes staff have a lot of frustration and they have different ways of doing things.'

He said the university had a mechanism to handle staff grievances and disciplinary procedures. 'It is a personal choice if someone wants to bring a matter to the court,' he said. 'I can't do anything about it.'

Professor Tsui said he was confident that incoming dean of medicine Lee Sum-ping would help build solidarity and morale. Professor Lee, the head of gastroenterology at Washington University, will take up the post on August 1.

Serving Dean Raymond Liang Hin-suen said some staff felt a bit unhappy given the incidents, but the mood had since improved.

'We believe that those are all individual incidents instead of any widespread problem in the faculty.'

Professor Liang said the faculty continued to receive strong support and donations from the public and the alumni, and was hiring about 40 new academic staff.