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Plenary session of SARS Expert Committee commences


The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) Expert Committee commences the first of a week-long plenary meeting to examine and review the SARS outbreak earlier in Hong Kong and deliberate on recommendations to be made to the Chief Executive.

Addressing the full committee this (August 13) morning, the co-chairman of the SARS Expert Committee, Sir Cyril Chantler, said the committee's main task in the next two days was to make sure that members shared a common understanding of the issues arising from the factual account of the SARS outbreak.

"It's not really possible to make recommendations if we don't share a common understanding of the issues," he said.

The two groups (Hospital Management and Administration Group, and Public Health Group) under the committee had met in June and July separately to discuss issues pertaining to their own areas of study.

In the process, they had met and discussed with a wide range of stakeholders, including hospital and public health authorities, board members of the Hospital Authority, local experts, university professors, frontline health care staff, Amoy Gardens resident representatives, operators of old age homes, and legislators.

Sir Cyril dispelled doubts about the independence of the work of the committee. He said, "There is no question we all regard ourselves as entirely independent people. We are not beholden to anyone, we are here to do a job for the people of Hong Kong and to report to Hong Kong Government," he stressed.

Another co-chairman, Professor Sian Griffiths, also emphasised the need to look forward when addressing the meeting.

"This is not just about looking back but it is about looking forward and actually general lessons that can be learned, and that's not just for Hong Kong but actually for the international community.

"That is an important context for the work that we are going to do in the next few days," she said.

The full committee would continue with its fact-finding mission in the first two days of the plenary session. Today, members would meet representatives from the Hong Kong News Executives' Association, Hong Kong Journalists Association and the Hong Kong Federation of Journalists to discuss the lessons learned and areas for improvement as regards communications with the media and the public during the SARS outbreak.

The committee would also listen to the views by a group of patients who had contracted SARS and representatives from eight patients associations.

Tomorrow, the members would meet Hospital Authority's infected health care staff. They would also listen to the views from some 35 public and private doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals from over 20 health care sector organisations.

In the following days, the committee would engage in intensive discussion sessions on the various issues identified and deliberate on conclusions. They would also deliberate on key themes and issues, and recommendations to be made to the Chief Executive.

End/Wednesday, August 13, 2003


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