Authority defends move to suspend heart surgeon after complaint

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 19 August, 2013, 8:53am

The Hospital Authority chief says a public hospital's decision to suspend a top cardiologist after receiving a complaint about his surgery was necessary in order to protect public safety.

Dr Leung Pak-yin yesterday defended the Prince of Wales Hospital over its suspension of Professor Yu Cheuk-man, who is also assistant dean of Chinese University's faculty of medicine.

The decision was made after a specialist complained to the Sha Tin hospital, questioning the standard of heart surgery - specifically angioplasty, in which a balloon is used to widen arteries - performed by Yu.

"It is always a very difficult decision to make," Leung said. "But patient safety should always be the priority.

"Given that staffing won't be affected, the Hospital Authority supports the decision made by the Prince of Wales Hospital."

Leung said the complaint would be investigated by an independent group of experts, with a result expected in two months. They would examine Yu's work records, including surgical data.

But doctors from the College of Cardiology, in a letter to the authority, said they were disappointed over how it had handled the matter, and that there wasn't a strong case for the complaint. They said it was unfair to suspend Yu at this stage.

Public Hospital Cardiologists Association chairman Dr Tam Kin-ming questioned whether there were even any rules in place to guide the handling of such incidents. "What standard procedures are there in reviewing a doctor's performance in cases like this?"

Leung said it was standard procedure overseas for hospitals to take any complaints seriously when they involved a specialist reporting another practitioner.

He would not divulge the name of the complainant, the timing of the suspension or elaborate further. He acknowledged that the investigation could add to pressure on doctors, but said the complaint would be handled fairly. A Hospital Authority spokesman said the angioplasty service at the Prince of Wales Hospital remained normal.

Yu could not be reached for comment last night.