Two clinical audits have found that the mortality rates of patients who underwent surgical treatment to remove tumours in the liver and oesophagus varied widely among Hong Kong's public hospitals. In other words, cancer patients treated for these conditions were more likely to die at some hospitals than at others. In deciding to publish the findings, we do not seek to create panic among patients. The same consideration explains why we have withheld the names of the hospitals which, our sources tell us, recorded the lowest mortality rates. To name them would be to unfairly target other hospitals. However, we believe patients have the right to know the standard of care offered by our hospitals, especially because an expert has commented that in many of the cases there could be a prima facie case for legal claims against the surgeons and the Hospital Authority. It is imperative that the authority informs the public of the measures it has taken to address the problems unearthed by the audits. Have those hospitals found to have recorded high mortality rates been stopped from conducting surgical treatment for those two conditions? If they have been allowed to continue, have the weakest links in the treatment processes been identified and rectified? Those whose loved ones died after being operated upon should also be availed of every assistance to ascertain if negligence or professional incompetence contributed to the deaths. No health professional wants to put the lives of his or her patients in jeopardy. Yet, for all the care and attention they devote to those under their care, they may, through a lack of experience, unwittingly cause them harm. The audits revealed that the hospitals which recorded the lowest mortality rates also treated the largest number of patients, while the figures at those which treated fewer such patients were generally higher. In one extreme instance, a hospital was found to have operated on only six patients with oesophagal cancer in a period of 4.5 years, and of the six, only three survived. Practice makes perfect. One has to question the competence of the medical team concerned, since it rarely has the opportunity to apply its skills. Hong Kong is a compact city. It should not be too difficult for the Hospital Authority to concentrate resources for treating complex medical conditions at certain hospitals so that patients get the best care from the most experienced surgeons. The authority should be commended for conducting the audits, which show it is striving for excellence. It now needs to face up to the consequences.