HKU won’t renew contract of doctor who left surgery patient

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) will not renew the contract of a doctor who found himself at the center of a controversy last year in relation to duties on a liver transplant patient at a local hospital. 

Dr. Kelvin Ng Kwok-chai will not be rehired when his current contract expires in a few months, a HKU official told reporters on Wednesday.

Professor Gabriel Leung Cheuk-wai, dean of HKU’s Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, said the decision was made after careful consideration by the human resource committee of the faculty, which took into account an investigation panel’s report on the doctor’s conduct during a 2017 incident.

Ng had been accused of leaving a patient during a surgery at the Queen Mary Hospital (QMH) last year. 

On Oct. 13, Ng was supposed to supervise a liver transplant operation for a patient at QMH. As the person lay on the operating table with his abdomen cut open and was waiting for a donated liver to arrive, Ng is said to have left QMH and traveled to a private hospital to attend to another patient there. 

Although the operation was later successfully completed that night under Ng’s supervision and the patient was in stable condition, QMH launched a probe into the incident soon afterwards.

In a report released by QMH last month, an investigative panel called Ng’s “intra-operative break” from QMH during the scheduled surgery period “unnecessary” and “avoidable”.

It was “unacceptable” that Ng failed to “make any alternative arrangement for the operation to proceed and avoid unnecessary delay,” the panel said.

On Wednesday, HKU’s Leung said the human resource committee found the panel’s comments reasonable after considering multiple factors.

Given the report, it was decided not to renew the contract of Ng, who had been deputed for work at the teaching hospital on a part-time basis in 2016 under a two-year deal, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Professor Lo Chung-mau, director of QMH’s liver transplant center, who hired Ng to join his team, said it is a pity that things came to such a pass. But he said he respects HKU’s decision.

Lo pointed out that Ng’s departure will be a loss to patients, adding that it would be difficult to find another experienced liver transplant surgeon like Ng, who is an outstanding doctor in terms of expertise and medical ethics.

Given the situation, he said he may consider letting Ng help the liver implant team in another capacity or position in the future.

Ng has admitted that what he did was wrong and accepted the university’s decision, but he still wishes to serve in the public medical system, according to Lo.

Asked if Lo would introduce Ng to work for the University of Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, where Lo acts as chief executive, Lo declined to answer.

Leung, meanwhile, said the liver transplant center at QMH will adjust its manpower deployment after Ng leaves.

It is understood that the center, which is currently the only one of its kind in the city with nine doctors mainly in charge, is training three other certified surgeons so as to avoid manpower gap.

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