Expert group questions ability of suspended heart surgeon Yu Cheuk-man

Independent panel rules earlier decision to remove top cardiologist from Prince of Wales Hospital was valid because he 'lacked experience'

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 July, 2014, 6:07pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 July, 2014, 5:08am

More than 16 months after the suspension of Prince of Wales Hospital's top cardiologist, an independent review committee has concluded that the decision was valid.

A report by the committee, which was released yesterday, found that Professor Yu Cheuk-man "lacked experience in some complex procedures and special techniques".

Despite reservations about Yu's ability to perform complex operations, the Hospital Authority-appointed committee advised the public hospital to consider allowing Yu to return to perform "simple procedures".

Yu said the report was "unfair and unjust" but he hoped the hospital would accept the committee's suggestion to reinstate him on some treatments.

"My greatest wish is to continue to serve my patients," Yu said as about a dozen patients staged a protest at the Hospital Authority headquarters in support of him.

He said the authority had ignored the views of six European experts who concluded in January there was nothing wrong with his work and he was seeking legal advice on what to do next.

Yu, a Chinese University medical professor and the head of the hospital's cardiology department, was suspended in February last year after complaints by surgeons that 11 of his operations had resulted in serious complications.

In four cases, the patients later died.

The report said two overseas experts appointed by the authority had raised concern over Yu's knowledge, techniques and skills in parts of the 11 complex operations he performed between 2011 and 2012.

Quality and safety director Derrick Au Kit-sing said the authority was "seriously concerned" about the standard and skill exercised in three operations. In one case, the report said, it was "unacceptable" that Yu had left a stent - a device inserted to open up a constricted artery - under-expanded in an 82-year-old patient, which could be why serious complications developed.

Au said it had also been found that Yu insisted on leading some procedures himself, refusing help from colleagues.

The six European experts, invited by the Medical Association, said they found no evidence of impropriety in Yu's handling of the patients, and some even said two of the operations were "well performed".

"It is not fair for the committee to accept only the opinions of two overseas experts appointed by themselves and disregard the opinions of six other top international experts," Yu said.

Legislator James To Kun-sun, and a patient group formed to support Yu, agreed.

To said the cardiologist had been penalised before any investigation and the complaints against him were based on misleading data.

But Pang Yiu-kai, chairman of the independent experts group that produced the latest report, said it was fair and just. He said the review had been conducted conscientiously and "the only aim is to find out the truth".

Hospital Authority chief executive Dr Leung Pak-yin said the authority would talk to the university to work out whether Yu should be partly reinstated, and the range of treatments he could perform.