Report on liver fiasco skirts blame

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 12:00am

A Hospital Authority investigating team has failed to say who should be held responsible for the blunder in which a donor liver for transplant was wasted or whether there should be separate funding for costly life-saving operations.


The investigation report will be presented at a special meeting of the Legislative Council panel on health services today.


The South China Morning Post revealed how in June, Professor Allan Chang Mang-zing, chief executive of the Prince Of Wales Hospital, refused a transplant team permission to use the liver as it would have meant exceeding its quota of one transplant a month.


Earlier this month, the Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, admitted rejecting the organ had been a mistake. He said at the time: 'I know Professor Chang quite well. He is a good chief executive, a good professor . . . but anybody can make a wrong decision.' Dr Yeoh and Hospital Authority chief executive Dr William Ho Shiu-wei are expected to attend today's meeting.


Dr Yeoh has said a separate budget would give doctors more resources and flexibility for operations, and would avoid further cases in which donor organs are wasted to cut costs.


The Hospital Authority report said its investigation found that the Prince of Wales Hospital (PWH) performed eight liver transplants in the first half of this year, causing 'significant strain to the clinical staff and resources in other essential services'.


The hospital management, in response to the concerns, decided to keep the number of transplants at one a month, the report said. When a liver became available from Queen Elizabeth Hospital on June 15, the PWH management decided the potential donation would not be pursued.


The transplant team at Queen Mary Hospital - the other centre performing the surgery in Hong Kong - was also unable to use the liver as it was in the middle of a transplant, the report said.


The report said timely intervention at Hospital Authority head office might have avoided the wastage of the liver.


To prevent future wastage, the report said the authority's head office would work out a mechanism for determining the priority of liver transplant recipients at Queen Mary and Prince of Wales hospitals. Dr Yeoh scrapped the restriction on liver transplants at PWH in the wake of the outcry over the case, but Queen Mary will remain the designated centre for liver transplants.


Legislator Dr Lo Wing-lok, who represents the medical sector, said: 'It is a very superficial report.' He had hoped the authority would have said more about what happened on June 15 and what were the problems facing PWH management that led to the wastage of the donated organ.