Plastic surgeons' group head says Yik Siu-ling's case is 'an isolated incident'

Top plastic surgeon says city's doctors are of 'international standard'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 3:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 January, 2014, 3:24am

The head of the plastic surgeons' professional body downplayed the damage to its reputation caused by the failed case of Manila hostage victim Yik Siu-ling, describing it as "just an unfortunate and isolated" incident.

Daniel Lee Tin-chak, president of the Society of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, also defended the work of Hong Kong's doctors.

"Ms Yik's case is just an unfortunate and isolated incident, so it should not be an indication that microsurgery in Hong Kong is substandard," Lee said.

The group said it would not push for an investigation into claims high-level hospital administrators interfered with Yik's recommended surgery schedule for fear of bad press coverage.

Yik survived the Manila bus siege in 2010, but was shot in the face and her jaw was shattered. The mother of one had 33 operations in Hong Kong, but due to complications with her recovery, she decided to go to Taiwan for the same surgery after receiving financial help from Filipino businessmen.

Lee said the type of surgery that Yik had, which involved transplanting bone from one of her calves, had a success rate of more than 90 per cent in Hong Kong, which was "comparable to international standards".

To date, more than 1,500 microvascular free tissue transfer operations - including 300 free fibula flap transfers - have been carried out in four public hospitals in Hong Kong, Lee said.

The society's public show of solidarity come a fortnight after Professor Andrew Burd, former chief of plastic surgery at the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin, claimed administrators exerted undue influence on Yik's treatment for fear of a public relations nightmare.

Lee said the society would not be pressing for an investigation into Burd's claims because it was "neutral" over the serious allegations that also called into question the surgical experience of Dr David Wong Sau-yan, who carried out the first operation on Yik.

"It's up to the Hospital Authority or the Department of Health to deem if an investigation is necessary, we have no position on this," Lee said.

Last night during a radio interview, Yik said she had lost faith in Prince of Wales since Burd's claims came to light and that any other surgery she needed would be done elsewhere.

"If the future procedures are too expensive to be done in Taiwan and I have to do them in Hong Kong, I wouldn't consider Prince of Wales," she said.

Burd has since expanded his claims of non-clinical interference to include Dr York Chow Yat-ngok, the then secretary for food and health. Chow and the Hospital Authority denied the allegations last night.

Gordon Ma Fong-ying, a society council member, said the damage caused by Yik's case was "only secondary".

"The most important thing is that we can satisfy our patients' needs and deliver our medical care," he said.

"Yes, if an isolated case of failure is being extended exponentially, that's unfortunate, but it's also unfortunate that the 90-plus per cent of successful cases were not mentioned."