Patients' battles changed outgoing Hospital Authority boss Anthony Wu Ting-yuk

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 4:53am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 October, 2013, 4:53am

Having stepped into medicine from business, Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said the life-and-death struggles he saw in hospitals changed his values.

In his past nine years as the Hospital Authority chairman, he has paid many hospital visits to compensate for his lack of medical knowledge.

"My values have changed after seeing so many helpless patients," he said. "There are a lot things that shouldn't be taken for granted."

One childhood cancer group, the Little Life Warrior Society, especially touched him.

He learned how mutual support between parents makes a big difference in coping with the disease. One mother wanted to kill herself together with her son, who had a cancerous brain tumour. But meeting another parent, and the encouragement they gave each other, changed her.

Inspired by seeing the young cancer patients' fight to recover, Wu became the group's honorary patron and invited the children to sing at the authority's 20th anniversary celebration.

Although Wu was a board member before becoming chairman, he admitted that his medical knowledge was limited.

He bought a medical dictionary nine years ago but has never really used it. He joked that he still cannot pronounce the full name of the ear, nose, and throat speciality otorhinolaryngology.

The many abbreviations used for medical terms were especially difficult for him.

"In meetings, I would ask them to explain them to me until I understood," he said.

Wu said he liked attending staff functions and visiting hospitals to meet frontline staff.

He especially remembered one visit when a nurse rushed up to him. The authority had announced a policy that staff should take the antiviral drug Tamiflu as a precaution against bird flu. But she asked if it would be okay if she did not take the medicine.

"Of course, but why?" Wu replied. He found out that she was worried about the side effects, but her life insurance required her to comply with all hospital instructions. He changed the policy so that only those who wanted to had to take the medicine.

Wu had not thought that a policy to protect medical staff would bring such problems.

"Sometimes there are things that you wouldn't know unless you get out there," he said.