Henderson cleared for hospital site plan

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 June, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 June, 2001, 12:00am

Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee has won Town Planning Board approval to develop part of his privately owned Union Hospital site in Sha Tin into a residential project.

The development will subsidise the hospital's operation, setting a precedent for other private hospital owners.

The project will be built on a site reserved for expansion of the hospital but which is being used as a carpark.

Henderson will be allowed to build a 284,000 square feet residential project, comprising 220 units, on the 89,000 sq ft site.

Hospital manager Anthony Lee Kai-yiu said the hospital's expansion could be fulfilled with more floors in the main hospital building, adding up to 180 beds.

Also, there was a trend in the medical services to adopt high-technology to reduce patient time in hospitals, Anthony Lee said.

In such a situation, he said it was better the site be used for development. The profits made on the property could subsidise the hospital's expansion and expenditure on equipment.

Mr Lee said Union Hospital had been operational for seven years, with turnover growth at 10 per cent per annum.

However, it was still losing money, mainly because operating income could not cover annual depreciation of more than HK$10 million.

'[Lee Shau-kee] has invested more than HK$1 billion in this hospital and it is not possible to require him to pump money in endlessly,' Mr Lee said.

'Some opposing parties have said: does this make the hospital a bad proposition and then you can build a residential project?

'But [the truth is] we always buy new equipment [to improve our quality] and we are the only private hospital to have secured accreditation from third parties, such as ISO 9002 certification.'

Mr Lee said a detailed financial scheme for the subsidy could only be ascertained when a land premium for the residential project was concluded.

Analysts said other private hospital owners, if they had similar plans, would probably take the Union case as a model for their own projects.

In April last year, Matilda and War Memorial Hospital on The Peak applied to turn its Sharp and Lincoln houses into a three-block residential project, but the proposal was rejected.

It is understood a religious group-funded hospital in Wan Chai also has plans to build a residential project to subsidise hospital operations.