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SCMP Friday, April 20, 2001

Government speaks out in mobile phone medical controversy


The Secretary for Health and Welfare Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong on Thursday condemned the use of mobile phones in operating theatres, amid mounting calls for the chairman of the Medical Council to quit.
Dr Yeoh also announced there would be a major review of the Medical Council to see how the redress system can be improved to regain lost public confidence.
Speaking for the first time on the controversy that has engulfed the Medical Council since it cleared a Queen Mary Hospital surgeon of professional misconduct over his use of mobile phone during a colonoscopy, Dr Yeoh said he could not comment on the verdict and it was up to the council to explain its verdict.
''On the use of mobile phones, I just want to state very clearly that we do not think mobile phones should be used in operating theatres or anywhere near any medical equipment,'' he said on Thursday after meeting with District Council chairmen.
He said the use of mobile phones inside operating theatres has been banned in public hospitals because of safety concerns over interference with life-saving equipment and doctors should give their undivided attention when treating patients.
Legislator Andrew Cheng Kar-foo said the chairman of the medical council, Dr Lee Kin-hung, should resign as a result of the council's mishandling of the issue.