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SCMP Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Medical Council chief denies protecting peers


Medical Council chairman Dr Lee Kin-hung yesterday denied a lawmaker's claim he had protected his peers and so done the medical profession a disservice.
The council last week cleared a Queen Mary Hospital surgeon, Dr Tung Hui-ming, of professional misconduct over using his mobile phone while performing an operation.
It also ruled the perforation of the colon suffered by the patient, Chung Chi-cheong, was not the result of Dr Tung's telephone conversation during the procedure to remove growths in May 1999.
The decision prompted criticism that the council had lost its credibility in disciplining doctors. Dr Lee chairs all panel hearings.
"It should be an independent panel, especially as Dr Lee has been in the system for so long," said Albert Ho Chun-yan of the Democratic Party. "[Dr Lee] has a lot of blind spots, maybe he is too eager or anxious to preserve the dignity of the profession.
"But he is doing it a disservice. This decision does not help. A doctor who is not doing the right thing should be admonished."
Mr Ho, a lawyer, has been collecting the Medical Council's rulings over the past three years and has sent a report to overseas experts for comment.
Dr Lee yesterday denied he was protecting doctors. "It's upholding justice," he said. The seven doctors and one layman at last Wednesday's 14-hour hearing unanimously decided to clear Dr Tung.
Dr Lee said council members had issued an unusually long statement explaining the decision because they knew it would be controversial.
"We were hearing all the evidence. All the previous inquiries were done behind closed doors. It was the first time the whole picture was presented to the public," he said.
Mr Ho questioned why the council focused on the length and subject of the mobile phone conversation. "The fact that [Dr Tung] used a mobile phone during surgery is totally wrong, it should not be tolerated," he said.
He also warned another legislator, Dr Lo Wing-lok, against attempts to quash a decision by the Hospital Authority's Public Complaints Committee to discipline Dr Tung. The committee last March barred Dr Tung from promotion and pay rises for five years.
"The matter should be heard in court," Mr Ho said.
The Medical Association, of which Dr Lo is president, and the Public Doctors' Association will set up a joint taskforce to examine the contrasting disciplinary decisions.