A veteran cardiologist who was suspended from surgical work last year has lodged a written appeal to the highest echelons of government to “uphold procedural justice” and to place him back behind the knife.
Prince of Wales Hospital cardiologist Professor Yu Cheuk-man said an investigation by the Hospital Authority on was already in its eleventh month, but had so far been unable to determine whether complaints about the quality of his work were substantiated.
“I am appealing to the Chief Executive [Leung Chun-ying] and the Executive Council to raise attention to this injustice to the public healthcare system,” Yu said today.
He added that his inability to do his work for 14 months had put many heart patients at risk as there were only currently only 48 qualified cardiologists under the authority.
“It is unjust to immediately suspend the clinical duties of an experienced cardiologist … who can serve patients and train more junior doctors,” he said.
Yu, a Chinese University medical professor, was barred from carrying out surgery last February after complaints by surgeons surfaced about the quality of his operations.
The Sha Tin hospital where Yu worked, cited 11 serious complications seen in his patients in 2012, four of whom died after the operations. Yu argued he was unjustly penalised based on misleading data.
The complaint said his patients had an 8.3 per cent mortality rate 18 to 24 months after undergoing angioplasty. This would have been significantly higher than the average 2.9 per cent mortality rate in British hospitals in 2011.
But Yu said the figure was misleading because it had been based on 133 patients he had operated on in the first half of 2011, looking at their mortality 18 to 24 months after surgery. Some had died of unrelated conditions such as cancer and tuberculosis, he said.
Yu said only one out of 600 patients he operated on from 2010 to 2012 had died, putting the patient mortality rate at just 0.2 per cent, far lower than the average rate at British hospitals.
“It is extremely unfair to continue the ‘indefinite’ suspension on pretext of continuing an investigation which seems never-ending. Justice delayed is justice denied,” Yu said.
“Suspension before a proper investigation is a violation of procedural justice.”
Yu said he would not rule out taking further action if the authority failed to provide a deadline to complete the investigation.
The authority said it had consulted two expert panels under an independent review committee established last August.
One of two reports has been received and another one is expected to be submitted at a later date, an authority spokesman said. All details will be disclosed to the public when the investigation is completed, the spokesman added.
Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is assisting Yu, said the authority was deliberately delaying the investigation as they had already “bungled” it and were “looking at who they could get to take the blame”.
Correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated it was Yu who said his patients had an 8.3 per cent mortality rate 18 to 24 months after undergoing angioplasty surgery. It was his complainants who reported this figure, not Yu.