Two liver transplant centres to be merged
Queen Mary Hospital will become the only liver transplant centre in Hong Kong, with all patients going on a central waiting list.
An independent taskforce headed by Andrew Yip Wai-chun, a consultant urologist at Kwong Wah Hospital and vice-chairman of the Hospital Authority's central co-ordinating committee in surgery, has been appointed to compile the single waiting list.
The list will apply to both teaching hospitals - Queen Mary which is attached to the University of Hong Kong and Prince of Wales which is associated with Chinese University.
A set of standardised criteria will be set out to determine the priority of patients receiving transplants but Prince of Wales Hospital will not be allowed to carry out operations under the new policy.
The announcement came five months after the South China Morning Post revealed how a liver was wasted in June due to a lack of resources at Prince of Wales Hospital which had been subject to a cap on the number of transplants carried out there.
Albert Chui Ka-keung from Chinese University, who disclosed the scandal, recently protested after some of his clinical duties were removed.
Hospital Authority chief executive William Ho Shiu-wei said yesterday that teams from both teaching hospitals would carry out transplants but he did not spell out details or a timeframe for the merger plan. He also did not say whether Dr Chui would carry out transplants.
Dr Ho said the plan was based on an internal review and a study by overseas experts aimed at safeguarding fairness for patients and enhancing cost-effectiveness.
'It is in the best interests of patients to have one single liver transplant centre. The findings from both reports suggest it would be more appropriate for Hong Kong to concentrate its resources and manpower on one centre to improve the service quality and to ensure all patients are treated fairly,' he said.
Dr Ho also claimed the authority would not cut its budget for liver transplants but he did not say how much more would be pumped into Queen Mary Hospital, which was chosen over the Prince of Wales because of its longer transplant history.
The first liver transplant in Hong Kong was carried out at Queen Mary Hospital in 1991. The hospital carried out 60 transplants last year - four times the number of operations done by its counterpart.
Patients' Rights Association spokesman Ho Hei-wah agreed that a central system for liver transplants would benefit patients by helping to avoid wasting donated organs and safeguarding fairness with a single list.
However he added: 'I am worried about whether Queen Mary Hospital can handle a large number of patients including those from Prince of Wales. Also I am worried that the Hospital Authority is only finding an excuse to cut back its transplant service to save money.'
Chinese University's dean of medicine Professor Sydney Chung Sheung-chee, who was also at yesterday's press conference, said he was very sad that the teaching hospital would no longer carry out liver transplants.
There are a total of 100 liver patients on the waiting lists from both teaching hospitals.
Prince of Wales Hospital will no longer carry out transplants
Independent taskforce appointed to compile single waiting list
Standardised criteria set out to determine priority of patients
Medical teams from both hospitals will carry out transplants
Pledge that liver transplant budget will not be cut