JLG delay puts new medical plan in doubt
By PAUL TYRRELL
TIME is running out for plans to replace the British Military Hospital (BMH) with a medical facility in the New Territories, it emerged yesterday as the British Garrison confirmed that half of the hospital's wards are to merge next month.
A scheme to create a multi-million dollar medical centre in Sek Kong has been delayed by the recent deadlock between Britain and China.
The Joint Liaison Group (JLG) has discussed the future of the 23-year-old hospital in Wylie Road, Kowloon, without reaching an agreement.
All land occupied by the British Garrison is due to be handed over to the Hongkong Government by 1997 and a spokesman at HMS Tamar said: ''What will happen to the BMH and the land it is on is, like all other military estate, a matter for the JLG.'' The BMH was due to be replaced last year by the medical centre but one source said it was looking unlikely that the plan would go ahead.
''If the JLG reached an agreement on military estates this year, the new medical facility would only be used by the Garrison for about two years. It would be extremely difficult to justify the multi-million dollar costs of a replacement,'' the source said.
From May, the hospital will shrink from 90 bed to a normal capacity of about 70 beds with the merger of two of the four wards. The paediatric and maternity wards will not be affected.
''The medical and surgical wards will combine and the size of the hospital will reduce roughly in line with the Garrison over the next few years,'' said a spokesman.
Replacements might not be found for the Royal Army Medical Corps doctors and Queen Alexandra's Army Nursing Corps nurses ending their normal two-year stints in Hongkong, he said.
But he stressed that the Garrison would still have a medical facility until 1997, irrespective of what was decided about the future of the BMH.