HIV risk from doctors is 'extremely low'

A consultant tells coroner that the city has never had such a case

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 13 March, 2013, 4:24am

The risk of HIV-positive health care workers infecting patients is "extremely low", a health consultant said yesterday at an inquest into the death of a surgeon who had contracted HIV. Dr Wong Ka-hing, a consultant to the Department of Health's special prevention programme, was speaking at the Coroner's Court inquiry into last year's death of Dr Wong Ho-hing. Tests conducted after his death showed the surgeon, 34, was positive for the human immunodeficiency virus. The body of Wong, who worked at the Pamela Nethersole Eastern Hospital, was found outside his Wan Chai home on January 12 last year. He lived on the 39th floor, and apparently fell from a height. Police found a stool and a pair of slippers on his balcony.

Wong Ka-hing told the court that the risk of doctors infecting patients with HIV was "extremely low", and then only when doing an "exposure-prone" procedure, in which the surgeon's hands enter the patient's body.

Worldwide there have only been four reported cases of an HIV-positive health care worker infecting a patient, and Hong Kong has never had such a case, he said.

Dominic Tsang Ngai-chong, chief infection control officer at the Hospital Authority, told the inquest yesterday that health care workers were encouraged to report any incidents that created a possible risk of infection during procedures, rather than punishing them for not coming forward.

Tsang said Hong Kong "should keep its current system", when Coroner Philip Wong Wai-kuen asked him if a reassessment was needed.

Wong Ho-hing had been performing surgery right up until the day before he died, the court earlier heard.

It also heard that HIV test results from a Thai hospital were found in his flat.

The coroner is scheduled to give his verdict on the cause of Wong's death today.