Top doctors have promised to find ways to reform the Medical Council following the controversy over a surgeon who took a mobile phone call during an operation. But after being severely criticised by legislators at a special meeting of the health services panel yesterday, council members remained opposed to a total ban on using mobile phones in operating theatres. Council chairman Dr Lee Kin-hung and six other council members were summoned to the meeting and asked to explain the decision earlier this month to clear a surgeon of misconduct after he used a mobile phone during a colonoscopy in May 1999. The decision to clear Dr Tung Hui-ming, a surgeon at Queen Mary Hospital, triggered a public outcry, with legislators and a senior health official calling for a revamp of the council's redress system. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa also urged the council to take 'appropriate measures' over the incident. Some public doctors called for the setting up of a high-powered independent court to deal with medical blunders, which in essence would take over the council's role. But this proposal has been ruled out by top health officials and senior doctors. At yesterday's meeting, Michael Mak Kwok-fung, the health services sector representative, said the council's ruling had destroyed public trust in doctors and the council had to reform to repair the damage. 'I would describe the Medical Council as a listed company that has became a negative-equity owner, a bankrupt [who] is facing a takeover,' he said, pointing to past council rulings that had been disputed, its lack of public trust and the Government's wish to review the council's redress system on medical complaints. Democrat Andrew Cheng Ka-foo said the council was 'all-powerful', since it was the only body that had the power to investigate and rule on complaints on a doctor's professional standard. At present, only four of the council's 28 members are not in the medical profession. Six of the seven members of the preliminary investigation committee, which deals with complaints of professional misconduct, are doctors. Council member Dr Louis Shih Tai-cho said the incident was unfortunate. 'Many of the council members also believe that the council needs a major reform, because our [redress] mechanism might have became obsolete.' Dr Shih said he would move a motion at the council's meeting next month to call for reform. He would propose a large increase in the number of laymen on the council and more non-medical members on the investigation committee. Council members sidestepped lawmakers' questions on whether doctors should be banned from using mobile phones during surgery. Dr David Fong Jin-sheng said it was wrong for Dr Tung to keep his mobile phone on while operating, but this was not professional misconduct. Legislators have agreed to set up a special sub-committee to consider medical council reform.