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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
HK doctors under the spotlight
Doctors at the Prince of Wales hospital in Hong Kong
One patient infected 112 others at the Prince of Wales hospital
Hong Kong doctors have reacted angrily to claims that they could have handled the outbreak of the Sars virus differently.

Staff at the Prince of Wales hospital have been criticised in the Hong Kong media for failing to institute stricter infection controls and for taking two weeks to ban visitors from wards.

But more than 100 doctors from the hospital wrote a letter to the South China Morning Post, repudiating the claims and pointing out that the criticism was very damaging for staff morale.

Hong Kong's healthcare system has been place under extreme pressure by the Sars outbreak, which has infected more than 1,232 people, including 280 health care workers.

The Prince of Wales hospital has been at the centre of the Sars outbreak, with dozens of staff members infected by the virus.

But critics say the outbreak could have been contained if the Prince of Wales had acted more effectively.

With hindsight we could have implemented some more stringent infection control measures
Dr Lo Wing Lok, president of the Hong Kong medical association
"Why was the index of suspicion so low in Hong Kong, the acuity of judgment so raw, the sense of infection control so weak and the mechanism for instituting isolation so rusty?" wrote Professor Lam Shiu-kum, dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong.

"It took the Prince of Wales two weeks to decide to ban visitors to its wards," he said.

How Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome has spread around the world

Dr Kenneth Tsang, Assistant Professor at the Queen Mary Hospital added that hospitals whose staff had been badly affected by Sars were suffering from "very bad morale".

"It is very, very stressful, especially when your own personal safety is at stake," he told the BBC's East Asia Today programme.

The president of the Hong Kong medical association, Dr Lo Wing Lok, told East Asia Today that this type of mud-slinging was unhelpful.

"With hindsight we could have implemented some more stringent infection control measures," he said.

"But we did not have the benefit of hindsight when we were first facing this catastrophe."

Dr Lo explained that historically there has been a lot of competition between the Prince of Wales and the Queen Mary, Hong Kong's two main hospitals.

But he said that now was not the right time to do a "post-mortem of the whole incident".

"I hope that all members of the medical profession can focus on our common enemy - Sars," he said.

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