Week of recovery expected for Suen

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2011, 12:00am


Education secretary Michael Suen Ming-yeung, who has kidney failure and is battling legionnaires' disease, was released from hospital intensive care yesterday, but doctors said he is expected to take at least week to recover. The 67-year-old's fever has subsided, they said.

Suen (pictured) was admitted to Queen Mary Hospital on Sunday with symptoms of pneumonia and transferred immediately to intensive care.

'[The disease] can be very dangerous,' said Dr Chan Wai-ming, head of the hospital's intensive care unit. 'But he is in a satisfactory condition, as shown by vital signs like blood pressure and respiration.'

Suen has been on kidney dialysis since October last year.

He may have become infected with legionnaires' disease - a potentially fatal form of pneumonic triggered by bacteria - during a trip to Guangdong earlier this month.

His spokesman confirmed the diagnosis on Wednesday after public health officials announced an unidentified local man had contracted legionnaires' disease.

The soonest Suen is expected back at work is January 3.

Undersecretary for Education Kenneth Chen Wei-on has taken on his duties in his absence.

Chan said he was not sure when Suen might be able to return to work.

'[Having contracted] legionnaires' disease alone may not affect a patient's work ability,' he said. 'One must consider his overall physical condition to assess his ability to work.' He could not say when Suen would be released from the Pok Fu Lam hospital.

Dr Lo Wing-lok, an infectious-diseases specialist, expects it will take 10 to 14 days for Suen to recover.

Officers with the Centre for Health Protection and the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department took 13 water samples and six other samples from Suen's office in the government headquarters in Admiralty and his home in Shuk Yuen Building, Happy Valley, as part of efforts to trace the source of the infection.

However, Lo speculated that the ventilation systems at the hotel where Suen stayed during two days in Dongguan might have contained the legionella bacteria that causes legionnaires' disease.

Lo said more than one in 10 people who contract the disease die, but age and existing health problems could increase the risk of death.

Political commentators James Sung Lap-kung and Dixon Sing Ming said it would be in the interests of both Suen and the government for the education secretary to step down in light of his health.

Suen's wife, Rita Suen Chung Siu-fun, said she would not suggest that her husband retire before his term ends on June 30.

'It should be left for him to decide,' she said. 'It's not my business.'