Making friends all part of the job for outgoing chief

Hospital Authority boss Anthony Wu recalls two special cases in his nine years at the helm

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 October, 2013, 3:46am

Of the millions of patients served by the Hospital Authority in his nine years as chairman, Anthony Wu Ting-yuk particularly remembers two who became his good friends.

The life of one, brain-injured Jason Leung Song-xue, may have been turned around thanks to a nail-biting decision by Wu after the Manila bus hostage tragedy.

The attitude to life of the other, quadriplegic Tang Siu-pun, changed dramatically after he came to public attention by asking the government for a euthanasia law so he could die.

Wu recalled their struggles and the changes in their lives yesterday, a day after Open University president Professor John Leong Chi-yan was named to succeed him in December.

After the Manila shooting in 2010 - which left eight people dead and Leung with severe head injuries - Wu and authority chief executive Dr Leung Pak-yin decided to send neurosurgeon Dr Dawson Fong To-sang to the Philippines to treat the then 18-year-old.

Fong decided it would be best for Leung to be sent back to Hong Kong for the surgery. After seeking permission from Leung's mother, Wu arranged for the comatose Leung to be flown back.

"It was a tough decision. The easiest solution was to leave him there, then nothing could go wrong," Wu said.

He recalled waiting at the airport for Leung's plane to arrive.

"The pressure was huge in that one hour or so. The whole of Hong Kong was focused on Jason. Was it right to send him back? I had never felt so nervous in all my life. I prayed and I dared not take any calls."

Leung's condition eventually improved and Wu remembers celebrating his birthday and festivals with him at the hospital. Now he is well enough to joke with Wu.

"The last time I saw him, I teased him and said 'you've put on some weight' and he said 'I'm not as fat as you'," said Wu, whose nickname is "Fat Wu".

Tang, paralysed from the neck down by an accident in 1991, died last year aged 43, but not before publishing a book and inspiring others with similar injuries.

Hospital-bound at the time, Tang wrote to then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa asking him to pass a euthanasia law.

It sparked an outpouring of support and led to Ah Bun, as he was popularly known, leaving the hospital for a flat of his own.

Wu said that Tang had at first ignored him but they later became good friends.

After publishing his book in 2007, Tang bought a gift for Wu with his royalties.

"All these years, I have met so many people and I feel very blessed," Wu said.

After leaving his post, he hopes to help boost medical co-operation between the mainland and Hong Kong, and the mainland's medical reform.

Asked about likely pressure on the hospitals from Hong Kong-born children of mainland parents, he said he did not expect long queues like those being experienced at kindergartens.

"All children need to go to kindergarten, but not all of them will fall ill," he said.