Top cardiologist banned from performing surgery claims he is victim of conspiracy

Suspended cardiologist also defends his record and shows proof that he had been trained overseas in two complex heart procedures

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 August, 2013, 8:50am

A top cardiologist who has been banned from performing surgery said yesterday the decision was made in an "organised and premeditated" way.

Professor Yu Cheuk-man also dismissed accusations about the quality of his work, saying that the figures cited against him were unfairly quoted.

Yu, a professor at Chinese University, was suspended in February by the Prince of Wales Hospital after complaints about his work by other heart surgeons at the hospital where he was head of cardiology.

The chief executive of the hospital, Dr Fung Hong, had cited 11 serious complications seen in Yu's patients last year, four of whom died after the operations.

Fung also said Yu had performed two high-risk procedures without gaining proper training.

But Yu dismissed both accusations yesterday, saying that the figures were unfairly quoted. "I am getting the feeling that there had been an organised and premeditated [effort] behind this," he said at a press conference.

But he refused to openly speculate on the motive behind the complaints and suspension.

Yu said all of the 11 patients that Fong cited were aged between 70 and 88 who had other health risks and were more likely to suffer complications after angioplasty.

Of the four who died, three succumbed to other diseases, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and heart failure. They did not die within 30 days after the surgery therefore the deaths could not be linked to poor surgical performance. The fourth, a 74-year-old, died four days after surgery because the person's heart was in poor condition before the operation, he said.

"As the most senior doctor in the team, I doubt whether another member with less experience would have performed any better if I refused to take on these cases. Can anyone else guarantee there would be zero complication?" Yu asked.

Regarding the two high-risk procedures, he said he was qualified to perform them, although Fung said he was not.

The professor displayed several certificates obtained from Germany, Denmark and Switzerland stating that he had been trained to do the two procedures, the left atrial appendage occluder and transcatheter aortic valve implantation.

He had carried out 20 of the left atrial procedures in Hong Kong and 18 of the valve implantations and there had been zero fatalities, he said.

Yu said it was the usual practice for doctors to gain accreditation directly from the manufacturer behind the operation and bring the skill back, as the public hospitals lacked a process to determine whether a doctor was qualified on certain operations.

"It was my duty as the senior surgeon in the team to be trained and explore new ways of treating patients," he said.

Fung said that the current practice in public hospitals of allowing the department head to approve himself to perform high-risk operations should be reviewed. He denied there were politics involved in the action against Yu.

"The decision has to be made to ensure the safety of the patients as there are real concerns about his operations," Fung said.

He revealed that Yu's suspension in February came after seven other doctors, in an unprecedented move, complained about Yu's standard of work.

Yu said he would not rule out taking legal action.

Medical Association chairman Dr Tse Hung-hing said it was improper to suspend a doctor before any investigation was completed.