Court blasts Medical Council's 'woeful' delay to deal with drug doctor

Judge condemns failure to deal with doctor's drug use but rejects his contempt of court bid

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 6:39pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 February, 2014, 4:18am

A judge has branded the Medical Council lazy over "woeful" delays by its health committee in holding a hearing on a case involving a doctor who injected himself with anaesthetic.

The committee had been "indolent and inefficient" in complying with a court order to hold a hearing, the judge said.

The doctor, identified only as Dr Q, was found semi-conscious at United Christian Hospital in Kwun Tong on November 4, 2008, after injecting himself with an anaesthetic.

The case took a twist in October 2010 when the Court of First Instance ruled that the committee had unconstitutionally prohibited the doctor from obtaining legal representation for the hearing.

When no hearing date had been fixed by late 2012, the court in December that year ordered the committee to fix an "early hearing date".

In August last year, the doctor sued the committee for contempt of court for still failing to set a date.

In her written judgment handed down yesterday, Madam Justice Queeny Au Yeung Kwai-yue criticised the committee for the delay. "The delay was particularly woeful and culpable given that over those four years, Dr Q's case was the only case [the committee] had to deal with and to deal with expeditiously under … a [mandatory order]," she said.

The judge said the delay had affected the doctor's career and public confidence in the committee.

And if the doctor were later found not fit to practise, he or she would have been left to do so for more than four years since the incident.

But the judge dismissed the doctor's contempt of court action, noting that the December 2012 order to fix a hearing date did not specify a time frame.

The committee had told the court the delay was due to late advice from its former legal adviser, Charles Chan Chor-chak.

Chan resigned in November after several council members called into question his performance and salary.

The judge said the committee, as bound by the mandatory order, should be held responsible for the delay in obtaining legal advice, which had been unreasonable and could have been avoided.

The Medical Council said in a statement: "The health committee of the Medical Council of Hong Kong is now working on resuming the hearing in relation to Dr Q's case. The hearing date will be fixed as soon as possible."