Hospital complains of equipment shortages

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 April, 2009, 12:00am

A community public hospital in Wong Tai Sin has complained that a lack of resources and modern medical equipment has made it 'substandard' for a population of 430,000.

Unlike other acute hospitals in Hong Kong, the 236-bed Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital does not have a computerised tomography scan (CT scan) machine or 24-hour X-ray services. That makes it hard to treat patients with strokes or breathing difficulties - two common conditions among the ageing population.

The chairman of the hospital's governing board, Conrad Lam Kui-shing, said it was shameful that a community hospital did not have such essential equipment.

'We'd never planned to provide high-end services, but if the Hospital Authority really needs us to play the role of a community hospital it should give us the basic resources and equipment,' he said. 'We are now a substandard hospital in terms of medical equipment although our medical staff are all of good quality.'

CT imaging allows doctors to inspect the inside of patients. The machine costs about HK$10 million and produces two- or three-dimensional images that help doctors identify tumours or blocked blood vessels.

Dr Lam also said the Hospital Authority's clustering policy was compromising the interests of small hospitals and the patients they served. Lady of Maryknoll Hospital is run by the Kowloon West cluster, one of the seven clusters under the authority. It also oversees Princess Margaret Hospital, Kwong Wah Hospital and Caritas Medical Centre.

'The clustering of hospitals aims to make services more cost-effective, but medical services should not only look at cost,' Dr Lam said. 'Many of our resources have been taken up by the bigger hospitals in the cluster; we don't even have 24-hour clinics for the local residents.'

The hospital now sends its inpatients to Kwong Wah Hospital in Yau Ma Tei for CT scans. A quota is set at 400 patients a year.

A visit to the ageing hospital, opened in 1961, revealed broken blinds, leaking roofs and peeling walls in the wards.

Staff said the roof of an operating theatre leaked last year.

'We usually won't put down the blinds because they just look too shabby,' one doctor said.

In one ward, three buckets had been placed near a window to catch water dripping from the ceiling. Some leaking water pipes are covered by boards to hide them from patients.

The hospital's chief executive, Wong Tak-cheung, said he had formally requested a CT scan machine from the authority.

'A CT scan [machine] is basic equipment in any modern acute hospital,' Dr Wong said. 'We need that to diagnose various kinds of strokes. If a diagnosis is not clear, wrong treatment could harm a patient.'

An authority spokesman said medical services at Our Lady of Maryknoll Hospital were supplemented by the Kowloon West cluster and that CT scan services in the cluster were 'sufficient'.

The authority said the cluster was reviewing the hospital's role.

It has allocated HK$10 million to repair and repaint the hospital's main block this year, and other blocks will be refurbished next year.