The Hospital Authority finds the key problems during the outbreak were in management Management and communication problems across the Hospital Authority were key concerns arising from the spread of Sars in public hospitals, a review panel said yesterday. Ronald Arculli, chairman of the authority's review panel on the Sars outbreak, said yesterday the panel was in 'fact-finding mode' after holding nine meetings since it was set up on May 30 to assess the performance of the public hospital system in handling the Sars outbreak. The seven-member panel has visited the Prince of Wales and Princess Margaret hospitals, the worst hit in the three-month epidemic. It has also met with various discussion groups representing doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals as well as patients' focus groups. 'I think the areas of concern involve issues of management and issues of communication - both from the headquarters to hospitals and within the hospitals themselves, in fact from senior to middle management,' Mr Arculli said. Another contentious issue was the 'controversial' guidelines on the use of protective gear for hospital staff, he said. Early on in the outbreak, staff were grappling with masks, goggles and gowns, prompting a number of campaigns, including the South China Morning Post's Project Shield, to buy protective equipment for the workers. But Mr Arculli said the panel had yet to analyse the views received so far, and it had not reached final conclusions or made recommendations for the authority. Another 69 public submissions had been received as of Friday and they were being analysed, he added. 'We have given the public an opportunity to come to us, to actually relate to us their experiences, to discuss with us and inform us as to what actually was going on from their point of view,' Mr Arculli said. 'We believe that it is very important that we get the facts right. We are going forward to see where we go from here, what, if any, recommendations and improvements we can come up with.' One of two overseas experts on the panel, Jonathan Boyce, associate director of Britain's Audit Commission, said he had not encountered language difficulties during meetings with staff and patients. 'Most of the discussions have been in English,' Dr Boyce said. '[Although] some of the discussions with staff and professionals have been in Cantonese, we have had very good interpreters.' Mr Arculli also said there was no question about the independence of the panel, pointing out that four of its seven members were not authority board members. A separate Sars Expert Committee, comprising international health experts and chaired by Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Yeoh Eng-kiong, is conducting a review. Its report will be submitted to the chief executive.