The suspension of the head of cardiology at one of the city's two major teaching hospitals, before a complaint by colleagues about the quality of his surgical work has been investigated, is beginning to sound like a medical soap opera. Cardiologist Yu Cheuk-man claims he is the victim of a conspiracy. The Medical Association says it is improper to suspend a doctor before an investigation is completed. The Hospital Authority has supported the suspension by the Prince of Wales Hospital as necessary to protect public safety. And now Equal Opportunities Commissioner York Chow Yat-ngok, the city's health chief from 2004 to last year, has suggested there is more to it than the doctor's professional standards. It is good that the authority has finally stepped in to hold an independent investigation into the doctor's surgical work and the hospital's management.
Yu was also assistant dean of the faculty of medicine at Chinese University. In February, the hospital chief and the faculty head informed Yu of the complaint and he was suspended.
The complaint questions the standard of his work - specifically angioplasty, or the widening of arteries with a balloon. The hospital's chief executive, Dr Fung Hong, has cited serious complications seen in Yu's patients, four of whom died, but Yu disputes the facts and figures. The two have also publicly disagreed about whether Yu was properly trained to carry out two high-risk procedures. Separately, the Hospital Authority has said complications could have been avoided, and that they could have resulted from the doctor's techniques, operating theatre teamwork and patient-risk assessments. But former health chief Chow said the investigation should also look at hospital management, adding: "I'm not sure if there were other reasons behind the suspension." The authority's investigation will include overseas experts. For the sake of public confidence, and fairness to Yu, we trust it will be expedited so that the affair does not drag on longer than necessary.