Group to examine payments The University of Hong Kong lost no time in setting up a new working group to address patient billing problems, which have been in the spotlight since the former dean of its faculty of medicine resigned. The council-level group was set up a day after a committee of inquiry released a report on Wednesday recommending that such a body be established to plug deficiencies. The group will be chaired by York Liao, a council lay member who is also a non-executive director of the Securities and Futures Commission. Its members are: Raymond Liang Hin-suen, the acting dean of the faculty of medicine; lawmaker Leong Che-hung, who also chaired the committee of inquiry; and John Malpas, pro-vice-chancellor in charge of planning and resources. Professor Liang, a haematologist, was appointed to his post after Lam Shiu-kum resigned in March. The committee of inquiry was then established to investigate billing irregularities. The committee had found prima facie evidence and referred the case to a law-enforcement agency. Vice-chancellor Tsui Lap-chee said yesterday he saw the setting-up of the working group as a 'pro-active and progressive measure'. The group will consult with the Hospital Authority and other stakeholders on measures to improve the existing billing systems and procedures. The committee of inquiry's report identified five major areas of concern, including loopholes that allowed payments to be made to outside accounts. It also found no procedure existed to check regularly for discrepancies between billing records and medical records. Professor Tsui said yesterday if the law-enforcement agency found that any staff had pocketed money received through the billing of private patients, the university would go to court to get the money back. He refused to disclose how much money might be involved in the university's preliminary findings. The university's audit committee will also audit the faculty of medicine to help it improve its procedures. Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk suggested there should be standardised procedures and clearer guidelines for billing private patients in the city's two medical faculties. The authority also referred a case about private billing to a law-enforcement agency in March. Fok Tai-fai, dean of medicine at Chinese University, said the faculty reviewed private billing procedures from time to time and so far had not found any staff malpractice. The two universities share the income from treating private patients with the authority. University of Hong Kong professors are not allowed to pocket any money. Chinese University professors, however, may pocket up to 40 per cent of the income.