Doubts cast on doctor's ability to manage celebrity couple's baby

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 4:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2014, 4:03am

A paediatrician whose newborn charge, the son of a celebrity couple, died a day after birth in 2005 was incapable of handling the baby, the chairwoman of a medical disciplinary panel said.

Dr Wan Kam-ming is accused of failing to move the critically ill child soon enough from St Teresa's Hospital in Kowloon City to Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Yau Ma Tei, where neonatal intensive care equipment was better.

Instead, he let Cheung Tin-lam - son of singer Peter Cheung Shung-tak and former actress Eugina Lau Mei-kuen - remain in the private hospital even when the nurses did not give him timely data about the boy's low blood pressure and failure to urinate, the Medical Council heard.

Yesterday, the council's temporary chairwoman, Professor Felice Lieh Mak, asked why Wan did not arrange for a transfer, since St Teresa's lacked some of the equipment that would have helped the baby and the nurses were "not very competent".

"I put to you that you were incapable of managing the baby," she said.

Wan testified he had balanced the risks of a transferral as the ambulance did not have a ventilator, which the baby needed. He also said blood pressure readings were sometimes misleading.

The doctor was found to have left St Teresa's twice that day, the second time after ordering a transfusion. "When a blood transfusion was being given to the baby, you had to be there to observe it," Lieh Mak said. "You can't run off to your clinic."

Wan and obstetrician Dr Christine Choy Ming-yan are charged with professional misconduct. "I see you smiling and giggling," Lieh Mak told Wan towards the end of his session. "It may be due to nervousness, but this is about a human life - not a laughing matter at all."

On February 19, 2005, Tin-lam was born just after midnight with the help of a vacuum suction. Wan was woken up at about 1am because the hospital's resident paediatrician was not available.

When he arrived half an hour later, Tin-lam was in a worse state than he had been told on the phone. He had a bleeding scalp and was put on oxygen support. Wan gave him resuscitation and left instructions to measure his blood pressure every hour. He then went home at about 4am.

The hospital did not have a machine to measure blood pressure continuously, so nurses took readings every hour. The 6am measurement was not taken.

The boy's blood pressure was low when he returned at 9.45am. "If I had been told of it earlier, I would have returned earlier," he said. He ordered medication and a transfusion, then left for his clinic at 10am, returning only seven hours later at about 5pm.

The boy was transferred when Wan realised he had not peed at all, suggesting a kidney problem. The prosecutor contends Wan should have made the decision during his morning check.