140 patients of H.I.V. doctor to be given tests
Viral tests and counselling services will be provided to 140 patients who had surgery performed by a doctor found to be HIV-positive after his death - the first move of its kind in Hong Kong.
The 140 patients had higher risks of infection because they received mainly complicated surgery from Dr Wong Ho-hing at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital in Chai Wan in the past two years.
Wong was the 20th medical staff member found to be an HIV carrier since 1994, but his is the only case to require follow-up tests for patients.
Professor Lam Tai-hing, who chairs the Expert Panel on Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection of Health Care Workers of Department of Health, said the chances of patients contracting the virus from the surgeon were very low.
But he added: 'This time, there is a need for look-back investigation because the risk is relatively high after our assessment.'
It was only the first phase of the investigation and the panel would study what further action to take based on the viral test results, Lam said. The Hospital Authority refused to disclose how many patients Wong had treated and when he was infected. The authority will contact the patients from today by mail and phone.
It is hoped they can be found in the next two to three days to arrange blood tests.
The results of the tests could be known as early as the next day.
The panel reassessed the degree of exposure to Wong's patients yesterday, taking the views of local and overseas experts, after it concluded in January that there was no risk of transmission to patients.
Resident surgeon Wong, 34, fell from the balcony of a 39th-floor luxury flat in J Residence on Johnston Road, Wan Chai, on January 12.
His apparent suicide raised questions over the risk of medical workers and patients contracting the virus and led to calls for compulsory HIV disclosure for concern groups.
Professor Julian Gold, director of the Albion Street Centre and Regional Collaboration Centre for HIV/AIDS of the World Health Organisation, who was invited to the panel, said there was no need for this.
'If you practise universal precautions, the risks of transmission from health-care workers to patients, and from patients to health-care workers, are negligibly small,' Gold said.
Currently, doctors treating health-care workers infected with HIV have the responsibility to declare it to the Department of Health.
Dr Thomas Tsang Ho-fai, controller of the Centre for Health Protection, said the current mechanism was effective and public consensus was needed should the authority wish to impose mandatory declaration of a person's HIV status.
A hotline, 2996 222, set up on March 19 for the public received 50 calls on the case. An internal hotline was also set up for hospital staff.
Worldwide, there have been four cases since the 1980s of medical workers transmitting HIV to nine patients, in Spain, France and the US.
The number of people known to be infected by HIV in Hong Kong last year, according to figures from the Department of Health