The people of Hong Kong will be given a full and frank account of what actually happened between February 11 and March 26 during which Hong Kong was severely struck by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Sir Cyril Chantler, Chairman of the Hospital Management and Administration Group of the SARS Expert Committee said today (June 28).
Summing up the Group's three-day meeting in Hong Kong, Sir Cyril assured the public at a post-meeting press conference that he and his colleagues would beyond doubts remain independent and accountable to the people of Hong Kong despite some people questioned their independence.
"We have been appointed by the Chief Executive of Hong Kong on behalf of the people of Hong Kong. And it is to the people of Hong Kong that we will be accountable.
"We are certainly determined to be and that is my pledge to you," he said.
Responding to media questions, Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong, Chairman and Convenor of the SARS Expert Committee, also said the Hong Kong Government hoped to receive independent and objective views from the international experts so that lessons could be learnt and Hong Kong could better prepare its public health system for any future outbreaks.
Other Group Members present at the press conference are: Mr John Wyn Owen, Dr Sherene Devanesen, Dr Zhong Nanshan, Dr Tang Xiaoping and Professor Rosie Young.
Endorsing Sir Cyril's views, Mr John Wyn Owen pointed out that as people lived in an interconnecting world, local health problems were now global problems and global problems were local problems.
"For the rest of the world, in terms of your local health problems, it is the first line of defense against any outbreak of any infectious diseases. So local issues are global issues. Therefore, the inter-connectedness of the world community is clearly tied in with the interest of the people of Hong Kong," he explained.
Sir Cyril said the Group had looked at a number of issues in the past three days. One of these was the question of whether anything could have been done to avoid the outbreak in Hong Kong given the intelligence which was available in February.
They were also concerned about the severity of the outbreak at the Prince of Wales Hospital and issues concerning capacity of the system, infection control, protection of staff and patients as well as staff training of the public hospital system.
The Group had also considered the Amoy Gardens outbreak at the end of March and how it was handled, and they were particularly concerned about whether a similar circumstance, perhaps with the same virus or with a different one, would hit Hong Kong in the future.
"For the sake of the people of Hong Kong, but also for the citizens of the world, we have got to learn if there are better ways of handling such circumstances," Sir Cyril said.
However, Sir Cyril added that the Group was still gathering information and intelligence about the SARS outbreak and it was too early to draw any conclusion or make recommendations at this stage.
Also speaking at the press conference, Dr Zhong Nanshan said there was an urgent need to strengthen the connection between Hong Kong and Guangdong in the prevention of infectious diseases.
He said both formal or informal communication network should be set up and it would be of great help between the two places to look out for those unknown diseases.
He also looked forward to closer cooperation with Hong Kong in the areas of studies to identify the animal reservoir where the pathogen was suspected to have come from, and the integration of traditional Chinese medicine into western medicine.
The international experts began its tightly scheduled three-day meeting in Hong Kong on June 26. Since then, it had met with Hospital Authority board members and senior executives, Department of Health officials, frontline health care workers, legislators, and medical and health experts.
The Hospital Management and Administration Group will join the Public Health Group in a plenary session in August to further their study and investigation on the SARS outbreak.
The SARS Expert Committee is expected to complete its work and submit a report to the Chief Executive in September.
End/Saturday, June 28, 2003