Queen Elizabeth Hospital apologised on Thursday night for giving a veteran pro-Beijing lawmaker special treatment.

Tam Yiu-chung, a former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, was allowed to use a staff entrance when he arrived on Tuesday for an operation. His wife was allowed to wait in a staff-only room as Tam underwent surgery to remove a polyp in his left ear.

Tam Yiu-chung
Tam Yiu-chung. File

A post on a Facebook page used by medical professionals on Thursday accused Tam of jumping the queue as he was suddenly placed at the top of the operating theatre list on Tuesday. It said that Tam and his wife were allowed to enter the sterile area of the theatre through the staff entrance and were allowed to stay there in normal clothes.

The post also claimed that they could wait in a medic’s resting room before the operation, and also rested in a staff computer room after the procedure.

“The department operations manager and the senior doctor treated them as VIPs, and told others not to speak up – other nurses and doctors were angry but dared not to speak out,” the post added.

Facebook post medic
The post on a Facebook page for medical professional.

Without naming Tam, the hospital confirmed individual staff members had arranged for a patient to enter and leave the operation theatre through a staff entrance. They said a relative of the patient was indeed allowed to wait in a staff resting room on May 31 – adding that it was not a sterile area.

The hospital did not confirm whether Tam had jumped the queue, only stating that the patient was the first in line to receive surgery during that period.

The hospital stressed that the management did not know of the arrangement and that such an arrangement was inappropriate. It apologised for the incident and said it will take it seriously and investigate.

Rare arrangement

Tam told Ming Pao on Thursday that he did not ask for special privileges and that all the arrangements were made by the doctor. He said the doctor knew “he was busy” so arranged for the surgery as soon as possible.

In a statement released later on Thursday night, Tam apologised for causing inconvenience to all concerned. He said he could not comment further as the matter was under investigation.

On Friday morning, he apologised again and bowed three times in front of the reporters’ stand at the Legislative Council.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital
Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Medical sector lawmaker Leung Ka-lau told RTHK that the incident was unusual as staff resting rooms may have records of other patients. Relatives of patients would rarely be allowed to wait there.

Lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, also a doctor, told Apple Daily that the incident showed clear violations of regulations as people other than related staff may bring bacteria into the operation theatre when they are nearby.

He said it was unfair for other patients if people were jumping the queue, and Tam must have known about it.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.